Bringing TEDx to the Library

Posted Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 21:51
Chrystie Hill, from a screenshot of her presentation at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting.

What is TEDx, and why should libraries get involved? ALA President Barbara Stripling and two presenters were on hand at the Saturday morning Midwinter session, “Talk about Innovation! TEDx @ your Library,” to help librarians answer those questions.

Unlike TED (technology, entertainment, design) talks, TEDx is planned and coordinated at the local level and is meant to give communities, organizations, and individuals the ability to independently host TED-like events. Presenter Teri Skillman, outreach coordinator at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii Manoa, has organized two such events—one in 2012 and the other in 2013.

For librarians who want to host similar events at their library, Skillman advises that they first read the TEDx rules and apply for a free license via the group’s website. For Skillman, it took roughly one month to receive a license.

She offers the following tips once a plan is in place and a license obtained:

  • Hire a professional video documentary crew to do the filming;
  • Choose an experienced master of ceremonies to help develop the flow between speakers on stage and to keep the program on schedule;
  • Obtain permissions and logos for your sponsors to put on a slide with your final video;
  • Use social media to develop interest before, during, and after the event.

Session attendees let out a soft collective gasp when Skillman said the price tag for the film crew alone was around $10,000. However, she said she was able to offset those costs with grant funding. Stripling offered two other options for libraries, including business partnerships and in-kind donations from the community. For instance, she suggested that a local TV station may agree to film the event.

Chrystie Hill, community relations director at OCLC, shared her experience from the perspective of someone who has presented at two TEDx talks―in Columbus, Ohio, and Seattle, Washington (12:39). She said she initially thought the 18 minutes that presenters are allotted to speak was short, until she had to present for the first time. “Now I know better,” she joked.

(A third presenter, Meg Omainsky, librarian at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, was unable to attend but sent a video clip showing her students organizing a TEDx event at the high school. Several of these students also gave testimonials, including one who said that such events are a “good introduction to the world beyond school.”)

Skillman, Hill, and Stripling all agreed that local communities come to look forward to these events. As Hill said, “Engaging community is central to everything we do in the profession.”

At the session’s conclusion, Stripling announced that ALA will host a TEDx webinar for librarians on February 13 at 2 p.m. Central.


See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Midwinter—in real time and after. 

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