Greetings, dear library friends!
Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert here with you, again.
It’s been a little while since I’ve sat down to write to you all to share some inside-the-library perspective and what’s going on here. Feel good in knowing that we have been working on finalizing a few projects through our new PPL on the Outside Program, a program I started when I was hired in June and have been working on with my colleague and cohort, Erin Carberry, who has helped me in evolving the program. We haven’t talked too much about the program and Erin’s role in it, so here we go!
PPL on the Outside is funded by the Northern NY Library Network through the Network’s Action Grant. As with any successful community project, we rely heavily on community partners like Dr. Blair Madore of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Laurentian Chapter, who has led hikes and snowshoeing trips, Potsdam Rec Department Director Trey Smutz, who has provided equipment free of charge to our patrons for programming, Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors, the core of our Birds of Prey Program, and Maggie McKenna, Executive Director of SLAC Arts.
That community continues to grow!
PPL on the Outside was born out of a commitment to programming while our library doors were closed during the renovations and subsequent pandemic. It also remained in step with our desire to create as much online content as possible. Our now-former children’s librarian, Rebecca Donnelly, did wonderful video interviews with children authors and created other assorted fun video content. I did a few interviews with local authors as well, but I wanted to bring something different to the table, applying my previous skills as a reporter.
“What if we get outside the library walls and explore our community in ways that could be both exploratory and educational?” I asked PPL Director Annie Davey and Public Services Manager Sarah Sachs.
A green light was given, and so we began.
I brought my phone with me and started to video a variety of landscapes, hikes, tours of the library as the renovations were underway, and then I got together with Mark Manske for our first Birds of Prey Program video where we met his owls, hawk, and falcon (which you can see in my first PPL on the Outside blog post). During that first visit, however, my phone got jostled in the process and was knocked to the ground.
Don’t worry, it didn’t break <whew!>
But it got us thinking, let’s apply for grant funding for some GoPros and have cameras that are not only more durable and meant for such outdoor activities, but would also have superior video quality.
In applying for the grant we wrote that, through PPL on the Outside, we wanted to go beyond our mission to “‘occupy a central and traditional role in our community to provide the tools, resources and techniques for literacy development, language skills acquisition, lifelong learning, recreation, and research,’ by creating video tours of the outdoors and interviews with wildlife experts and enthusiasts in the wild of the north country and Adirondacks, as well as recreational tours of the waterways and trail systems for activities like kayaking and snowshoeing.”
We love our patrons. We love our community. We want to continue reaching you. So we asked for the funding to help create the video blogs and short films about the area for PPL on the Outside, which we also hope to turn into activities inside the library. That funding application was met with great enthusiasm and we were awarded everything we asked for, affording us two GoPros, some equipment to go with it, and funding for a new MacBook Pro for Erin to use in the editing and piecing together of our videos.
Have I told you about Erin? Let me introduce PPL Library Aide Erin Carberry in more depth. She is so much more than her title states and has been playing a pivotal role in PPL on the Outside.
While I have been finding the people and stories, the programs and activities, and filming all the things that we have been wanting to share with you, it is Erin who has been putting them together in a cohesive form that makes my filming and interviews bearable to watch. I promise you don’t want to see how these videos would have looked if I had to try putting them together.
Erin came to PPL on July 5, 2019, having just relocated to the north country after graduating from Mount Holyoke. She told me that during her interview with Annie and Sarah she talked about her experience in film as well as her coursework in digital news and podcasts. Both Annie and Sarah told me that they kept that in mind and had hoped to use those skills at some point in the future.
That time is now.
A graduate of Tompkins Cortland Community College with an Associate of Arts in Screenwriting and the Graduate of Note from her program in 2015, and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2019, it was her time in Mount Holyoke where Erin said she found her love of libraries while having worked as a student circulation assistant in both the main and music libraries on campus during her senior year.
As well as holding a BA in film, Erin made several short films for college courses, completing all steps of production and post-production herself. She also has written many papers, one of which she was chosen to present at the Five College Film and Media Studies Undergraduate Conference in March 2018. During her junior and senior years at Mount Holyoke, she also wrote semi-weekly film and television reviews for the student-run newspaper, the Mount Holyoke News.
So I think I have found my videos and programs in more than capable hands with Erin. But I don’t just rely on Erin to take the footage I capture and turn it into a digestible video. Often I ask her to accompany me on filming trips so that she can give me her perspective on what would be the best ways to capture an angle or what additional footage would work.
Erin and I were working on putting together the video clips from the Edgar Allen Poe reading series we did in October when I started to learn more about her film background. I asked her where her interest in film came from and why she pursued it as a degree.
I then learned storytelling was in her blood.
“It’s hard to say where my interest in film began. Both of my parents are writers, so storytelling was always something I was interested in as well,” she told me. “As a child, I was more drawn to movies and television than books. I fantasized about writing and producing my own shows when I grew up. Once I got to community college, my program required classes in analysis and production as well as writing.”
But during her time at Mount Holyoke, where she was initially most interested in production, she had her love of film rekindled due to a seminar on Film Melodrama and Horror and she switched her focus to American film history and genre.
“That doesn’t appear anywhere on my diploma or transcript, so it’s kind of just a fun fact. My favorite genres to study are screwball comedy, film noir, and melodrama,” she said. “I am especially interested in how societal and social movements affect films of their time, such as how screwball comedies parodied the widening class divide during the Great Depression.”
Writing is still something she loves to do, and although it is more of a hobby than something she would want to do professionally, there is still something of a writer’s eye that appears when she puts together our PPL on the Outside videos.
Erin said she always starts by watching all of the footage, even though in many cases only a small portion of it will appear in the final product. During the editing process, she said she tries to create a video that would interest her, hoping that will translate into interest from our patrons and viewers as well.
“This can mean adding background music, cutting more frequently, or putting in written text,” she said. “One skill I lean on a lot is covering awkward cuts or long, stagnant shots using B-roll, footage shot to act as filler.”
See? There’s the writer in her coming out.
“The storyteller in me tends to take over when organizing footage; I try to always communicate the story of the video as clearly as possible, even in something short like the renovation updates,” she said. “Film, and storytelling in general, is all about communication.”
We here at PPL hope that these stories speak to you and that you have been enjoying our PPL on the Outside Program and find greater pleasure knowing a bit more about Erin’s storytelling and film skills and how they apply to the creation of our videos. We look forward to seeking how it continues to evolve with new participants, with the reopening of the library, and with the ability of our all being able to spend time together again. We miss you all and if you have any ideas for what you would like to see more of or learn about through PPL on the Outside . . . or if you have any other program ideas, reach out to us. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Adult Program Coordinator,
William “W.T.” Eckert