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?


  1. Posted April 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I think podcasts are very much something you can only do if you have a commute or some other time in your day or week when listening to things makes sense and you have the appropriate media with which to do your listening. I wrote about this (or sort of about this) a little while back. It’s just hard to do things that aren’t a part of what you normally do.

  2. Posted April 22, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Depending on the player, you can note the time of the item of particular interest and then pick it up again at that moment. But that is easier if you have the player open and visible and you are taking notes and all–if you are listening in the car or on the treadmill, it’s much more difficult.

    I also have the problem of wanting to listen to podcasts but not having a convenient way to do it. I can’t do it at my desk at work, I don’t (fortunately) have a long commute, and that commute is almost never alone, and even if I were to devote time around the house, it would have to be the platinum kids-are-asleep time, and even then I would have to divide my attention with housework.

    And to add to that, I read very quickly, while I seem to listen at the same speed as everyone else. Listening to information seems wildly inefficient.

    Now, a certain person of my acquaintance is teaching podcasting, or at least teaching art history with podcasting assignments, and I think there’s tremendous value in having the students experiment with podcasting, but that’s a different matter.


  3. Catherine
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Vardibidian! Hi! What the heck are you doing here? 🙂 (You know I mean
    that in the nicest possible way, right?)

    You make a very good point about the speed of reading versus the speed
    of listening. I hadn’t considered that, but it’s completely true. And
    yes, “kids-are-asleep” time is absolutely platinum.

    Laura, I actually read that blog post of yours a little while back and completely identified with it: I used to get my news the way you do, listening to NPR at the beginning and end of the day, and then I moved in with the man who’s now my husband, and, well, we talk instead of listening to NPR. (Now I get my news from him!)

    Anyway, thanks for your comment and for letting me know that it’s not just me who can’t seem to figure out how to fit podcasts into my life. I just have only ever heard people raving about all the cool podcasts they’re listening to, never talking about how podcasts just don’t work for them.

  4. Posted April 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Well, I work in a library now, you know. Not a librarian, but still.


  5. Posted April 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Catherine, thanks so much for the thoughtful comments! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the episode and got some ideas out of it. (Want to be on the show some time? Seriously.)

    So… I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have a half-hour train commute each way to and from work, and I go to the gym about three times a week. If neither of those things were true I’d probably never have time to sit down and listen to a podcast. I’m not sure I’d argue that they’re more effective in any way than a print publication. They are a different medium — as you caught on, for the first segment, we were trying to capture (and share) a conversation, not the equivalent of a journal article. Different tools for different purposes, as I tell my freshmen about databases and Google.

    By the way, the surveys I’ve seen suggest that the majority of listeners play podcasts on their computer, not on a portable player. I wouldn’t be able to do it either unless I had something very brainless and repetitive I was working on…..

  6. Posted April 22, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the kind words re: AdLib Instruction. and i couldn’t agree w/ you more re: fast forwarding, bookmarking, etc. one thing we could possibly do in the future is give “time stamps” for each segment, but still….there’s no way to FF to it.

  7. Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Until very recently, I had over an hour commute (one-way!) to work, and I listened to LOTS of podcasts.

    Now that I’m no longer commuting, I still find time to listen to the favorites while driving around town, or even on my iPhone while cooking or doing other tasks around the house.

    That’s mainly because I am an aural learner and like to hear things that are serious. I prefer to save my reading energy for stuff that a) I really LIKE (hello, fiction) or that b) I can’t get any other way (I’m looking at you, library journals).

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