Using film to promote the magic of libraries

Using film to promote the magic of libraries

By Jane Mathieson


Time To Read - a partnership of people working in 22 library authorities in North West England - shares its experience of commissioning a video to promote reading and libraries.

Time To Read (TTR) is a partnership of people working in 22 library authorities in North West England. Its particular focus is adult reader development, i.e. encouraging people to read more and to read more widely and to borrow their reading from public libraries.

In 2014, February 8th was designated National Libraries Day - a national day of activity to celebrate the role of libraries. TTR was asked to create “something” to provide a strong positive message about libraries, celebrate the service and market it to people who don’t already use them. This was to be utilised by all 22 authorities in the network. TTR commissioned the Magic of Libraries - a short film inspired by the imagination books bring to our everyday life.

TTR had been offering courses to staff on digital skills and digital marketing as part of a previous project (Try Reading) which had included film-making. As a result of this, the TTR coordinator realised the potential of film to convey strong messages to a “digital” audience and that it could potentially fulfil what had been requested. A short film also had the potential to be used on library websites, on public library social media platforms and at outreach activities.

• To create a short film with a positive message about reading and libraries
• To create a high quality film which would appeal to regular viewers of video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo
• To provide 22 library authorities with something which they could use on their own social media networks
• To reflect the North West region

Target audience
The film was required to have as broad an audience appeal as possible. Time To Read’s audience is 16 years plus, so the film shouldn’t specifically target children, though obviously if appealing to children as well, that would be a bonus.

To appeal to people who do not use, or who have lapsed from library use.

To appeal to people who love books, reading and libraries and want to see a positive message emerging, in the current funding climate.


  • Have idea to make a film
  • Made sure everyone internally happy with idea, i.e. steering group, line manager. Idea was enthusiastically received
  • Agree budget
  • Assembled small working group of colleagues keen to help develop the project
  • Met once to create as clear a brief as possible. Shared knowledge of film makers to approach and researched others
  • Sent brief out to 6 film makers with fixed deadline
  • 3 ideas came back- working group met to discuss and select the preferred option. Also discussed our marketing plan
  • Gave film-makers the go-ahead with some small additional requests, e.g. more focus on music
  • First treatment received. A small number view and require some changes to improve. Ask for more work in very short timescale
  • Finished work came back to agreed deadline
  • Film shown to steering group and colleagues- enthusiastically received
  • Film released on Youtube and Vimeo
  • Press release sent out to 22 local practitioners for them to use as appropriate
  • Message sent out to practitioners explaining how the video should be used locally
  • TTR coordinator and colleague begin Twitter campaign to spread awareness to national and international colleagues, agencies, interested parties
  • Campaign continues for 10 days
  • Views and online feedback monitored
  • Thank and pay the film makers!

The film has been well received with overwhelmingly positive feedback from colleagues and others who have sent feedback via Twitter.

By Tuesday 18th February the film had been viewed 2,921 times on Vimeo and 737 times on YouTube, making a total of 3,658 views. And viewing still continues.

The Twitter campaign has been particularly successful, though reach via Twitter hasn’t been reflected in click-throughs to view. The film included references to books. By releasing one “answer” each day for 10 days we were able to keep the video “alive” and had reason for continuing to tweet about it.

By 11th February, Twitter messages reached approx 150,000 people thanks to some retweets from people with huge following, e.g. Robin Ince and Cory Doctorow. Between 12th and 18th February approximately a further 20,000 had been reached via further retweets. Several local authorities also tweeted from their own local authority Twitter pages.
Libraries across the region were able to use the film in other ways. Linking from local library websites, links on both the library and council’s Facebook pages, plus both the council and the library tweeted about it. We also screened it on plasma screens across the whole council - it looked great on a big screen.

In addition to this social media impact, the film featured on the front page of Blackpool Council’s website. An article was also published on AltBlackpool, our online Arts and Community magazine, which was released on National Libraries Day.

For the Time To Read partnership, using film to spread a positive message about libraries has been even more successful than anticipated. This is largely due to the quality and “quirky” nature of the film we were able to commission.

Key points for effective practice
The 2 key lessons I take from this project are: be very clear about what you want your social media campaign to achieve when you write the brief; and be uncompromising in the quality of work you commission. As long a timescale as possible helps to ensure that there is enough time for the creative part of the project- ideally we would have had longer.

• Finding a film maker who sticks to the brief and fulfils your creative vision
• You won’t like the finished product
• No-one else likes the finished product
• You don’t reach new audience
• You don’t reach the audience you want
• Negative feedback from public

In our case I’m not sure we reached new audience in a way that had impact, though many people will have seen the video. We spent £2,700 and reached a large number of people.

Conclusions and recommendations
For the Time To Read partnership, using film to spread a positive message about libraries has been even more successful than anticipated. This was largely due to the quality and “quirky” nature of the film we were able to commission. Everyone who saw the film and commented, enjoyed it.

Successful delivery of this small project has raised the status of Time To Read beyond the North West region.

A new Time To Read Twitter account was created for this project and has achieved 100 followers in 2 weeks.

Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2014