There are more than 600,000 podcasts worldwide. Should you start one for your library?
Phil Morehart, host of the Dewey Decibel podcast and senior editor of American Libraries, assembled a panel of librarian podcasters to tackle this question and others at “So You Want to Podcast…,” a PopTop Stage program at the American Library Association’s 2019 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Seattle on January 26.
Joining moderator Morehart in discussion was Gwen Glazer, reader services librarian at New York Public Library and cohost of The Librarian Is In; Joseph Janes, associate professor at the University of Washington Information School and host of Documents That Changed the World; and Adriane Herrick Juarez, executive director of Park City (Utah) Library and host of Library Leadership Podcast. The trio discussed everything from why they got into podcasting to how they plan content for their shows to what equipment they use.
“I personally had powerful questions that I wanted to hear the answers to,” said Juarez, when asked what inspired her podcast on leadership. “I come to conferences, I love the sessions, but I found that I would walk down the hall and have fabulous conversations.”
For Janes, his podcast emerged from his own interests and background, though it’s not a podcast directly targeted to librarians. “I gave not one moment’s thought to how many people and who would be listening to it,” said Janes. “I was targeting smart people who thought the things I talked about were interesting.”
Glazer and Juarez also commented that their podcasts have broader appeal to wider audiences than expected. For Glazer, a listener survey found that 87% of the people who downloaded The Librarian Is In didn’t live in New York. “It’s really different from what we thought we were doing when we started.”
She describes her content creation process, and that of her cohost Jefferson Market branch manager Frank Collerius, as organic. “We kind of deliberately don’t plan too much,” she said, noting that they ran an episode on American poet Mary Oliver after she died on January 17.
Janes shares Glazer’s content flexibility—“I pick topics and then I research them; this is my scholarly output”—though his show differs from the other two in that it is scripted and episodes run about 9–12 minutes. “Writing to be heard is different from writing to be read,” he noted.
For Juarez, her aim is to showcase her guests’ expertise. “I will talk to the guests ahead of time,” she said. “My goal is to get the best content for you and get the guests comfortable.”
As for equipment, preferences ranged from Janes’s $150 Yeti microphone and rolled-up towels to absorb sound to the six-by-six-foot sound booth that Juarez ordered for her library from Amazon. Panelists agreed that, no matter what you use for recording, there are free and inexpensive software and hosting options, such as GarageBand and SoundCloud.
Ultimately, panelists encouraged attendees to start podcasts they’re passionate about—and not for the goal of monetization. “Every library has some set of resources that is unique,” said Janes, and podcasts can be “a way to expose the collections you have that no one knows you have.”
Glazer added, “I think you can make a really good case to your administrator or your supervisor that this is part of your library’s core mission.”