Librarians (and their Pets) Send a Video Message to Students

Thank you to Nancy Bellafante, Serials & Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, for this guest post.

The Biddle Law Library at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School responded to the COVID-19 crisis by increasing online reference services and expanding our collection of electronic resources. Before the shutdown, Biddle’s staff worked quickly to digitize course reserve materials. The library also partnered with publishers to provide free online access to casebooks and textbooks and invested in new ebook collections and study aid packages.

Yet, the library offers more to students than research support and course materials. We provide opportunities for personal connection. How can the library offer emotional support to students from a distance? In this remote environment, how can we communicate a smile or words of encouragement that we normally share in our face-to-face interactions?

During Final Exams period, the library puts up a digital display of the staff’s beloved dogs and cats (even a few turtles) to bring a little joy to our students during a stressful time. This spring, we adapted this idea to create the video, Finals Survival Tips: Pets Edition.

Library staff submitted clips of their pets demonstrating important tips for making it through finals, such as “eat snacks” and “take naps.” The video also included a message from librarians to let students know we miss them and are still here to help.

Creating the video did not require much time nor technical expertise. Below is an overview of the process.

Tools Used

  • Microsoft Photos – Pre-installed Windows 10 application, includes a built-in video editor
  • Zoom – Videoconferencing program with an option to record, offers free and paid accounts
  • Canva – Online graphic design program, offers free and paid accounts

Collect Video Content

Send an email to staff, explaining the purpose of the video, along with the deadline and guidelines for submissions. Explain how the video will be shared. Ask staff to keep clips under 15 seconds. Give ideas for the clips and encourage multiple submissions. Since some video files are too large to email, set up an online folder for staff to save submissions.

Create the Video

Microsoft Photos is similar to other video editors, but with fewer bells and whistles. If you are unfamiliar with video-editing software, watch Microsoft’s short tutorial series on how to make a video. Below are the basic steps to creating a video:

Start a new video project and import collected clips into the program. Decide on the video’s orientation. Note, most people record with their phones in portrait mode. Drag clips to the timeline to create the video sequence. Select individual clips to remove any black borders and to trim the clip, capturing the most interesting footage. You can also adjust or mute a clip’s volume if needed.

Add background music to the project. Select a track that fits the emotional tone of the piece. Add title slides to help communicate and organize the video’s narrative. Again, choose visual elements that match the video’s tone and message.  Keep it short. Our video was just under 3 minutes, which is a bit long, and it makes posting on some social media platforms difficult. If you have a lot of good material, consider breaking it up into a series. Once your video project is complete, save it as a movie file (MP4).

Create Text Slides Using Canva

Microsoft’s video editor is simple to use, but it has some limitations. It does not allow you to adjust the music volume for individual clips or add multiple tracks. Also, the program does offer clip transitions, and there are few text and title slide options.

For our video, I created the text slides using Canva, a free online graphic design program. Canva is easy to use and provides many templates and images. It is free to sign up for an account; however, some of the design elements are only available for paid accounts. I highly recommend Canva for creating marketing materials and social media posts.

Share the Video

Publish the video to your library’s YouTube or Vimeo channel to easily share the link on your website and social media. Our video was also shared with students in an e-newsletter sent by our school’s Student Affairs Office. I find this direct form of communication with students has the most reach.

The Most Important Element

Don’t forget the human element! We recorded a message to our students in Zoom for the video.  As heart-warming as our furry friends can be, seeing the faces of the librarians and hearing their voices were key to making a personal connection and communicating our support.



Research Librarian, Perkins Coie LLP