Library Podcasts: a two-part post

Part the First: Adventures in Library Instruction

So I finally got around to listening to the first episode of the “Adventures in Library Instruction” podcast, and the first thing I have to say is, “woo hoo to Jason, Rachel, and Anna for putting this together!” There is seriously not enough going on in the library/web/blogo-2.0-sphere about library instruction, and this is a most welcome addition! I’m definitely adding it to my feed reader and will be watching for future episodes.

Listening to it, especially the opening chat portion, was a lot like listening in on a particularly good hallway convo at a conference, and that was kind of fun. Anna’s section on the Cephalonian method was a good summary of the method and example of how she used it in her instruction work; I was already familiar with the method and in fact have used it, so this wasn’t as useful to me as Rachel’s section on a cool active-learning classroom activity she did called Critical Evaluation Family Feud. I’m definitely going to have to go back and listen to that section more carefully and take more detailed notes, because I think there are some really great ideas that I can use in there. Gaming (in libraries or outside of them) isn’t really my thing, so Beth Gallaway‘s interview wasn’t as useful to me. But these are sharp, articulate, and creative librarians, and I’m looking forward to future episodes.

Part the Second: On Podcasts In General

So, like my Facebook confession earlier on this blog, I’m a little embarassed to admit that this is the first podcast I’ve ever listened to. Like Facebook, it’s not because I don’t understand the underlying technology. With podcasts, it’s because I simply don’t have the time, and I sort of wonder how and when people who do listen to podcasts do it. I don’t have a lengthy commute (a fact for which I’m terribly grateful) and for a good chunk of it, I have a babbling toddler in the car, so listening while commuting is out.1

I suppose I could listen to podcasts on my iPod (that’s what one is supposed to do, right?) while puttering around the house, but a) my iPod’s earbuds tend to fall out when I move around (I have weird ears, okay?) and b) again with the babbling toddler. And I don’t much feel like listening to work-related podcasts while I’m not at work. I can’t very well sit at the reference desk with headphones on (though I’ve been tempted many times), and I definitely can’t concentrate on work at my desk while someone’s chatting in my ear about library whatever.

To listen to Adventures in Library Instruction, I basically had to carve out an hour to sit at my desk, with headphones on, and just listen, which was remarkably hard to do. And felt kind of weird – I kept thinking that I should be doing something, and kept having to remind myself that I was doing something: I was listening to a podcast. So that’s the biggest issue that’s been preventing me from listening to podcasts.

But then as I was listening, and taking a few notes (on paper!), I realized a couple of other problems with podcasting: first of all, there’s no way to bookmark a particular moment in a show to be able to refer to it later. I’d love to go back and listen again to Rachel’s bit on active learning, but I’d have to fast-forward and rewind until I find it. (Anyone remember cassette tapes? At least some players had counters that let you note particular spots in a tape.) And there’s no way to copy and paste ideas or make notes as you listen along – the good folks at Adventures in Library Instruction helpfully include links to some of the things that are mentioned in the show on their blog post for the episode, but that seems like a slightly clumsy workaround.

All in all, I’m really not clear on how a podcast is more effective than a text-based medium like a web page or (gasp!) a print journal article, unless the substance of what you’re trying to communicate is originally in an audio format, like a radio newscast or music.2

So to wrap this up, I’ll definitely be listening to future episodes of Adventures in Library Instruction, because it’s good content that I find useful to my work. But I’m really not sure about my long-term commitment to the podcasting medium, and I’m not particularly inspired to go out and search for additional podcasts to listen to.

  1. The flip side of this is, if podcasting had been around in 2002-2004, when I was commuting 2-3 hours a day to library school on a bus, and I could have listened to a podcast of yesterday’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition on the ride to and from school, I’d have been a happy, happy camper. And I wouldn’t have done any of the reading for my MLS program, since I did it all on the bus.
  2. This is a little bit related to my puzzlement at video clips that are essentially a person talking to a video camera – like the questions that were submitted for the Presidential debates and the ALA election via YouTube. Unless there’s some other visual component in addition to the person’s talking head – and granted, some videos included such a component – what’s the point?