As part of our work this summer with digital badging, we’re looking at how badges can draw together online communities — in particular, around favorite authors. This is the drive behind our author fan badges project.
In support of that project, we are also experimenting with providing programming to online communities. For libraries, in particular, the technological hurdles to providing an online program can seem significant, and we hope to help libraries realize it can be simple and easy to provide an online component to an in-person program, or to offer online-only programs.
We’ve worked with publishers to provide a wide variety of different kinds of programs. We hope you will be excited about the authors we have, but also take advantage of trying out the different kinds of programs.
Facebook chats are probably the least time consuming online program. The nature of the program makes it asynchronous, so it is easy for both the organizer and participant to dip in and out of the discussion. Decide what time you would like to have your author available to participate, and then start the discussion with a post on your Facebook page at that time. Ask for the discussion to occur in the comments. You can have the organizer, the author, and all of the participants be located anywhere, and only the organizer needs to have admin privileges for the Facebook page you are using. If the author does not have a Facebook presence they can or want to reply through, the organizer can post the author’s replies.
We hosted a Facebook Chat with Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Annals of Unsolved Crimes, on June 11, in partnership with melvillehouse. You can see the discussion on their Facebook page and a summary on their blog.
Next in the list might be Twitter chats, which operate under the same theory but require more organizational oversight, as you follow the chat by hashtag, and the comments may not necessarily be in order. As with Facebook chats, the organizer, author, and participants can be anywhere!
Why not move your book discussions online? You could use Facebook or Twitter to do so, or something more formal, with a moderator. We suggested Macmillan’s the Chief Inspector Gamache Re-Read as a great example.
Google Hangouts are an easy way to connect an author and multiple audiences — though, be forewarned, you may need to spend a significant amount of time making sure your organization has a Google+ page that is connected to your YouTube channel, and that you have the appropriate people as managers of the page, able to set up the Hangout.
We recommend using Hangouts on Air. Like a regular hangout, up to 10 people can join — but unlike a regular Hangout, you can schedule the event and share the link, and you have people watching (but not participating) in the program. That means you, the library, can have the ability to talk to the author (so, two people in your Hangout), and an unlimited number of people watching — or, you could have the library, the author, and 8 people from your bookclub or 8 winners from your Summer Reading Program or whatnot in the Hangout and an unlimited number of people watching. The 10 participants can be in 10 different places. For more information, see the Hangouts on Air FAQ.
We have several Hangouts scheduled, with the first being John Searles on July 17 at 7pm, followed by Marilyn Johnson on July 21 and Ann Hood in August.
Livestreaming may be the most complex kind of online programming, because many libraries do not have the technology to offer high quality streaming video. That being said, many publishers are offering streaming programs for their authors, which libraries could simply add in to their programming schedules, and either display in their meeting rooms, ask patrons to participate in from their computers, or both. Some of our larger libraries, notably nypl, livestream programs.
We shared the livestream of the keynote and Q&A from randomhouse's Outlander Fan Retreat with Diana Gabaldon on June 7.
Providing deeper interactions for patrons: in addition to hosting the online programs, think about ways to reach out to patrons and offer something special. Maybe patrons patrons who meet certain criteria (they have a fan badge!) can email questions ahead of time, or be part of the small number who can interact with the author in the Google Hangout. Offer patrons who attend the ability to obtain a digital badge, through a badge code, for being part of the program.
What about author visits via Skype? Skype allows one-to-one video conferencing, so the author can call in to your library, and your library can set up a computer, projector, speakers, and a microphone. Skype chats can feel really warm and intimate, as often you might be talking with the author in their own home. It can be difficult to use Skype for a purely online program because of the limitations of how many people can call in — hence the use of Google Hangouts. A Hangout can give the same experience, but with the ability to have more participants.