The making of BSS – the Movie

The making of BSS – the Movie

Chris (one of our Assistant Librarians) reflects on the making of the video that featured in the last post:

In BSS, we have recently produced a video and uploaded it to YouTube.  The idea is to give an introduction (a very brief one) to the work done in our section.

Having decided in principle that it was a good idea to produce a video, we were faced with some difficulties.  The work we do in BSS, though important, interesting and central to the public library service provided by the City of London is distinctly not photogenic.  Most of us spend a high proportion of the working day sitting at computers, working to a high level of concentration.  Secondly it is very hard to give sufficient detail to make the explanation interesting, yet not so much that it is simply underwhelmingly overwhelming.   Finally none of us who were involved in the project seemed to have much (if any?) experience of producing any kind of audio visual production.

A look around at what similar places had done was reassuring to an extent. There are plenty of library / bibliographic outfits who have produced superbly professional representations of what they do.  However they seem either to have invested in heavily expensive equipment or even have contracted the work out to professionals.  On the other hand there are plenty of other organisations who have produced something themselves.  We were clear from the beginning that ours would have to be done on a shoestring to the best standard we could but with no frills and relying chiefly on the message.

Cooperation has certainly been one of the principle ingredients – people willing to be photographed, to be filmed, to offer advice, to look up quickly how something can be done, researching websites for music and offering supportive comments when some of the results became showable.  There was no shortage of timely help and this undoubtedly had a good effect on the working relationships within the office.

Early on in the project, we agreed a format – basically a narrator speaking to still and moving pictures with a brief interlude of somebody speaking direct to camera.  We gathered pictures and video clips to add to an existing collection we had.  Having this collection made it comparatively easy to insert pictures at will, though some pictures which went in the final version were taken only days before the whole thing was completed!  Quite early too we drafted and settled on a script.  With this complete, we had a structure around which we could work.

From this point we produced a very rough first draft of the film – a crude recording of the script coupled with a high proportion of the eventual pictures.  This rough version we were able to show around and get some feedback.  Because responses were pretty positive, we were able to begin concentrating on the detail, like recording the narration and the video interlude properly, like finding appropriate music and working that in and creating captions and taking clips from the library catalogue.  Right up until the last moment of creation difficulties were emerging and being overcome, such as balancing the volume and tone of different voices recorded on entirely different machines and answering puzzles such as how you could allow someone who was speaking to camera to continue speaking but cut away from their face to show something else as they spoke.  The final version was only completed at 10.00pm the night before being shown to the two people heading our service.

It would be great to hear from others who have had experience of producing something of this kind.  It would also be wonderful to hear any feedback from those who have seen the film.


BSS – the Movie

BSS – the Movie

This is the first of two posts about the promotional video that we have recently made and uploaded to YouTube, based on the idea of a virtual Journey of the Book.  In this post we give you a chance to watch the video (and learn a little more about us), and in the second Chris (who was mainly responsible for making it) will explain how it was all put together. 

Chris adds –

It would be great to hear from others who have had experience of producing something of this kind. It would also be wonderful to hear any feedback from those who have seen the film. It takes only 6 minutes. Have a look and let us know what you think.

You should be able to view the video by clicking on the arrow in the middle of the screen.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Contributed by: Heather

For many years, Bib Services has been running occasional “behind-the-scenes” tours under the heading “Journey of the Book” – which we thought was an original title until we Googled it, when we found that there is nothing new under the sun. These tours, which follow a book through the processes of ordering, receipt, cataloguing and processing, were devised as a means of introducing new library staff to the work of our department – because, as a centralised department, we have contact with everyone, everywhere, at some time or another and because most people like to be able to put a face to a name. We wanted to be able to demonstrate not only that we existed, but that we were helpful, friendly and that the work we did in the back-room had a direct impact on the work they did on the front line.

After a while it occurred to us that perhaps library users would also be interested to see behind the scenes, and we started to offer a similar tour to the public. This covers pretty much the same ground, but we have to be careful to explain things in layman’s terms and not to assume that anyone knows, for example, what a catalogue is, what it does or why it might be useful.

Gradually we noticed that some of the people on these public tours were, in fact, colleagues from other library services – and who doesn’t like to have a look and see how another library does things? This did give us problems sometimes, when a group might include curious but uninformed library users alongside fellow cataloguers who were looking for a lot more detail.  And so we devised a third “flavour” of tour – one specifically for professional colleagues.

Although it takes time and work to organise the tours – setting up displays, preparing handouts and “goody-bags”, and devising and collating feedback forms – and although it can be tiring and slightly stressful to be suddenly in public view and acting as a tour guide, we have found the experience to be well worth the effort.

Sometimes “to see ourselves as others see us” can be uncomfortable. Working in the back room tends to be isolating and we make assumptions about our customers’ knowledge and expectations that turn out to be wrong. Things which we regard as being self-evident, often aren’t. And so we learn as much as our visitors and, in the case of professional colleagues, often make contacts that endure to the benefit of all concerned.

 As always, we’d be pleased to hear your comments.  Perhaps you have tried something similar and would like to share your experiences, or perhaps you are contemplating a similar project and would like to ask further questions about ours?

Our next tours, which are Public Journeys of the Book, will be on Wednesday 8th of February.  Unfortunately, these are now almost sold out, but we will be announcing the details of any future tours on W&E.

If you would like to be sent details when the next tours are announced, please leave your contact details here, or e-mail us at