December 25, 2008 in Voices

Post Falls Library enhancing digital literacy

Carolyn Lamberson Staff writer
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Senior librarian specialist Charlotte Robertson-Limesand sits in the video editing room at the Post Falls Library on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Libraries are places in which to learn, to imagine, to think.

It used to be books that provided the fodder – all that learning and imagining and thinking. These days, the Internet plays an increasing role. At the Post Falls Library, digital video technology has been added to the mix.

Post Falls Library patrons can now complete video projects from beginning to end – from filming through final edit – free of charge. The library has digital video cameras available for checkout. Once footage has been shot, patrons can book time in the library’s new editing room, working to shape their videos on new Mac computers using iMovie or the professional-level program Final Cut Pro.

The only cost will be for training needed to learn the editing the skills. It’s all part of an effort to bring more patrons into the digital age, library director Joe Reiss said.

“We’re predicting that the future of libraries lies in the digital world,” he said. “We’re trying to teach people to think and write and create digitally. We all know we’re in a transformative age, and this library is no different than the rest of society. The library has to move forward to stay vital. We’re putting our bet down on this.”

The library is teaming with the Spokane nonprofit Community-Minded Television to provide necessary training. Classes, which range from no charge to $100, will be held at the TV station’s downtown Spokane studio. They’ll cover video production skills and programs, including high-definition camera certification, basic lighting, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Illustrator, said Jeff Anttila, CMTV’s general manager. The next round of classes begins in January; for a schedule, visit www.cm-tv.org/.

Mark Foster, a computer specialist at the library, is one of the staffers who took CMTV’s Final Cut Pro class. He says he has caught the filmmaking bug, and enjoys editing in particular. He thinks the library’s new project is cool “on quite a few levels. The ability to offer it and the ability to work with it,” he said.

The library or CMTV will make sure users are certified to use the equipment, and library patrons will need to sign a form agreeing to abide by the library’s standards, Reiss said. So no, we won’t be seeing a local version of “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” edited at the Post Falls Library.

Instead, people could make documentaries about local people, places or events. They could film a family reunion or gather oral histories from grandparents. They could make a music video for their band or create short works of video fiction.

“We saw this as an opportunity that we just had to go for,” Anttila said. “I mean, how great would it be to go take a class and use the library’s professional equipment and build a project for very little cost to you?”

CMTV and the library also are writing grants that would help expand the project.

“We plan to also, whether the grants work out or not, to apply the tools and resources of the digital media project to helping people improve their marketable skills and improve their ability to market themselves,” Reiss said, adding they envision teaching, for instance, interviewing classes, in which people would be taped during mock job interviews to improve their presentation.

“We’re working on that as quickly as we can,” Reiss said. “We’re hoping the grant will help us do it in a big way. But if not, we’ll do it whatever way we can.”

Anttila said training in video production and graphic design is a key mission for CMTV, which not only airs locally produced shows on Comcast Channel 14 in Spokane, but also helps develop the programs. The training is offered at a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere, and in the end, the students end up with marketable skills.

“If someone knows Final Cut Pro and they went to L.A., they’d find a job like that,” Anttila said.

Job training. Inspiring creativity. Drawing people to the library. All these elements come together in the Post Falls project.

“For a lot of people, maybe they think we’ve drifted from our core mission,” Reiss said. “If they could see how people are using the library, they’d see at least 50 percent of what the library does is electronically based, and that’s growing all the time. That’s everything from DVDs you can check out to Internet access.

“We do some of these things because they’re on the fringes of what we’re really all about here, and that is information,” Reiss said.

Other libraries are taking notice, Reiss and Anttila said. CMTV has talked with librarians in Sandpoint, Moscow, Kootenai-Shoshone Library District, the Spokane area and Asotin County in Washington about creating similar programs.

“All the librarians realize there’s a gap that’s missing in the technology component that attracts teenagers” to the library, Anttila said. “Teens don’t come to libraries to read books.”

There are a handful of “eventuallys” with the program. Eventually, people’s video projects will be available for viewing on the Web, either on CMTV’s site or the library’s. Eventually, the library would like to add a facility for recording music. Eventually, if the grants come in, CMTV wants to be able to offer classes in Post Falls.

The big eventually? “Our hope is that this will be organically grown by the community, so that the community teaches the community,” Reiss said. “We get it started and it snowballs and we are hoping that we have teenagers teaching seniors.”

Reach Carolyn Lamberson at (509) 459-5422 or via e-mail at carolynl@spokesman.com.

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