British Columbia Library Association

Lessons learned in welcoming newcomers: Our experience creating multi-language library orientation videos

By David Carson

The Project

West Vancouver is a culturally diverse mix of people from across the globe. According to the 2011 Census, of the 41 per cent of West Vancouver’s total population born outside Canada, 32 per cent emigrated between 2001 and 2011, with more new arrivals still coming. West Vancouver Memorial Library is committed to making newcomers feel welcome and connected to our community. We are also keenly aware that our largely print-based communications materials are challenging for those who are new to Canada.

In 2014, due to a grant from the Provincially-funded NewtoBC project, we had the opportunity to produce our first multi-language videos, titled Welcome to the Library. The videos — narrated in English, French, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog and Japanese — take viewers on a visually rich tour of the Library’s services, programs, spaces and faces.

While we’re pleased with the final result, the process was not without its challenges. By sharing our experiences and lessons learned, we hope to encourage other libraries to create their own videos — and to avoid some of the difficulties we encountered along the way.


The Writer and the Script

We wrote the English script in-house, crafting the story we wanted to tell about our Library. To ensure clarity, we removed all repetition from the script and used plain English. The final five minute English version contained seven chapters subdivided into sections of no more than two sentences each. We then had a professional company translate the script into the chosen languages, which were reviewed by community members to ensure accuracy.



The Videographer, the Actors and the Shoot

We hired a professional videographer who had worked for the municipality in the past and had prior experience producing multi-language projects. Because we wanted to capture West Vancouver’s diversity, we worked with the West Vancouver Community Centre’s Volunteer Coordinator to track down volunteer actors to play the role of patrons on filming day. Although none were professional actors, all of the volunteers were enthusiastic, wonderful to work with and represented the various cultures of West Vancouver.

Prior to shooting, we broke the script into individual numbered scenes and then completed a walk-through with the videographer to finalize our shot selections. Finally, we shot footage to match with the English version of the script.

It was after this point that our relatively smooth journey started to encounter turbulence.



The Narrators and the Recordings

We wanted our final video to look and sound professional so we searched for narrators who were fluent in the languages and had some experience in radio broadcast or voiceovers. Pinning down our final group of narrators was challenging because we only had a small honorarium to offer and therefore limited our search to narrators looking to gain experience. We eventually connected with a voice acting school, which sent the opportunity out to its current and former students.

Our goal was to find narrators with welcoming and relaxed conversational voices, who also sounded clear, educated and professional. To make our final selections of non-English speaking narrators from the group of applicants, we collaborated with multilingual Library staff for their recommendations.

Once the final group of narrators was selected, all of the recordings were completed at the videographer’s home studio to a professional standard.

With our shots filmed and narrations recorded, the videographer created the English video and did not report any issues; however, our biggest challenge was about to surface.



The Editing Studio

When the videographer tried to combine the audio with the video, he discovered that the French, Farsi, Mandarin, Japanese and Tagalog recordings were all too long and did not align with the completed scenes. Constrained by our budget, we could not edit the scripts and re-record the narrations, nor film additional footage to fill in the gaps.

Instead, we edited the audio recordings by removing phrases that didn’t change the overall messaging, but did eliminate some of the detail, in an attempt to match each audio segment with the appropriate scene change in the video. This process was quite time consuming, and required both a staff person who understood the language and another with the software expertise to execute the needed edits.




The Final Result

We’re happy with our videos and we’re thrilled to be able to welcome new visitors to the Library in so many different languages. If other libraries wish to see our scripts or learn more about our experiences, we’re always happy to share.

Check out our Welcome to the Library videos, and many more, on our YouTube channel.


David Carson is the Communications and Event Coordinator at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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