Creative online content by Hampshire Libraries

1) Collaboration with children’s author Ali Sparkes

Early in the first lockdown our event’s team at Winchester made contact with award-winning children’s author Ali Sparkes, who had been due to run her Scribe Tribe writing workshop for children aged 9-14 in July 2020.  

Our collaboration with Ali led to the creation of Scribe Tribe Snacks a week of free writing challenges delivered from 4 – 8 May, when children were unable to go to school. 

During the week a daily challenge was posted by Ali Sparkes in a pre-recorded video. Participants had several hours to write and submit their response. Ali recorded a feedback video for each daily challenge which was posted in the afternoon.

Other platforms were considered for delivery, but we have a large audience of parents who follow our Facebook page and because participants could be as young as nine, we felt more comfortable promoting the challenge to parents.

In the week before the challenge we ran a promotional campaign with organic and paid-posts using Ali’s excellent trailer video. 

The level of engagement was very strong throughout the week, we had a large amount of submissions, very often accompanied by enthusiastic and complimentary quotes about the exercises. In total, 226 children submitted work for feedback, with the most popular video seen by 1300 people. 

Digital engagement:

  • Initial interest in the Facebook event was high with over 400 people engaging.
  • The dalily Snacks’ engagement was consistent throughout the week.
  • The snacks led to collaborative family input.
  • A number of children sent in illustrations to accompany the writing. 

Customer satisfaction:

  • Overwhelmingly positive from almost all parents and children 
  • The satisfaction only increased throughout the week as the process became more familiar to participants. 
  • A number of children joined on Wednesday and then remained engaged for the rest of the week. 

Feedback from participants:

“I wanted to thank Ali Sparkes for being such an entertaining and inspiring host this week. Her daily challenge videos and feedback sessions put a smile on my face every day and the children from my class loved taking part and having their work read out by Ali. I have learned so much as a teacher too and can’t wait to use some of her techniques in the classroom. Thank you from Mrs Robinson and everyone in Hawthorn class at St Mary Bourne Primary School. Xxx“

“Thank you so much for doing this challenge it has been an amazing highlight in our week of home-schooling and the little morning videos are so funny and inspiring that even two boys want to see them and get on and have a go. It is also lovely to see the feedback. Really special!”

Following the final Snack on Friday 8 May, the  Scribe Tribe Young Writers Competition was  launched with launch trailer posted on the Hampshire Library Service Facebook page. This was seen by nearly 900 people. Entrants were judged by Ali and published in an anthology on BorrowBox. 

Learning points:

  • Facebook offers immediacy and a safe channel for parents. 
  • Facebook comes with large restrictions and barriers for some content
  • Video feedback created technical challenges on the day, video feedback however, was a significant part of the customer satisfaction.
  • Live video broadcasting would work well, especially for potential Scribe Tribe proper online sessions.
  • More live chat with/below the feedback too. Lively discussion would be fun. 

2) Learning in Libraries Online

Creative activities are a remarkably useful tool for improving health and wellbeing, particularly for those feeling isolated during the first lockdown. The Learning in Libraries (LiL) team at Hampshire used our Facebook page to share regular, free, pre-recorded video tutorials. These were developed very quickly and covered a range of topics from mental health support to more hands-on crafts and activities including sewing and photography.

With libraries open but face-to-face contact limited the LiL team moved onto Zoom delivering a range of free and paid for courses. The courses, which were launched in the summer of 2020 mirrored their existing popular curriculum but provided access to those who would not normally be able to participate (due to furlough and online access), an example is the Jewellery for Wellbeing course:

The Jewellery for Wellbeing course was delivered online and covered the following learning objectives. 

  • Select and use a range of beads to produce jewellery item, taking into account suitability and how colour/texture improve mood.  
  • Produce at least two pieces of jewellery (bracelet, earrings and necklace) 
  • Identify how the movement of both hands in a coordinated way helps distract the brain 
  • Identify how the repetitive movement and hand positioning helps lower anxiety 
  • Describe how sensory nature of jewellery making provides positive feedback to our brains 

A learner emailed the tutor to share the attached photos of her work and outlined how the course had improved her mental wellbeing. 

I would just like to send a note to say thank you and what a wonderful course you provided. In our lessons I have felt calm and been able to concentrate. I’ve also been lost in what I’m making instead of a 100 things whirling around in my hear. Sometimes just being able to laugh and talk to new people is a big thing for me. You have really made a change in our lives.

3) Free online content for younger children

One week after the first lockdown was announced a team of volunteer Library Team Assistants began to post video content to Facebook. The content was designed to provide the core activities which are delivered in branch online. Facebook was chosen as our most established social media channel, with 48 individual branch accounts and a central account

Content from these providers was scheduled onto this central account where it could be easily shared to all other branch pages. Baby RhymeTime, Story Time and bedtime stories provided daily content for families coping with being together at home. Other colleagues took inspiration from these videos and began to produce their own content, which was also shared on the central page.

From 22 March – 22 September, 147,732 minutes of video were viewed on this central account, with the peak views occurring during April and May where daily views reached 3.3k minutes. 

Baby RhymeTimes have been consistently popular, with a single post from April reaching nearly 9,000 people. 

We experimented with Live RhymeTimes and pre-recorded Rhyme Times and found the pre-recorded content was as popular. The opportunity to see familiar faces and participate in activities was valued by our followers. The majority of videos we produced were also published to YouTube. As a channel YouTube is less established than our Facebook pages, but the clear navigation makes it easy for visitors to find relevant content. 

Between April and November 2020 our number of followers has grown from 3,400 to 6,317. Some weeks, especially during the first lockdown our organic reach peaked at 20k per week.