Thing 21:Podcasts

My biggest barrier to using podcasts is that they are audio only. I’m more of a visual learner so I don’t think I could do what our cataloger does – regularly listen to podcasts while cataloging.  She says, “I think of it as something that I can easily do to keep up with current ideas and events in the library world and beyond. In most cases, it really hasn’t been that necessary to view the video, so just listening has worked out well.”

I have a long commute (40-45 minutes one way) and I love listening to audiobooks, but have found that fiction (and biography, since it tends to be narrative) works better.  I tried listening to some nonfiction informational audiobooks in the car (Stephen Hawking books!) and found I had to concentrate too hard and kept needing to repeat sections, distracting from the driving.

Our reference librarian said, “Let me see the person doing the talking or give me a transcript. Otherwise it becomes background noise and I daydream and lose my place.”  I’m with her, for the most part.  In fact, with the National Library of Medicine’s podcasts, I just went straight to the transcripts.  I can read those a lot faster too, and they have useful links.

But, I think I would enjoy fiction podcasts, assuming I could download the whole book at once.  I just  got an MP3 player but it won’t plug into the USB port on my older computer at home, making downloading difficult.  My assistant listens to Podiobooks and I’ll have to give that site a try.  Apparently the author reads the book there.

The other problem I had with some of the podcasts I tried was that there was nothing up front to tell you how long the podcast was going to be.  The Library of Congress was a notable exception.  I think this is very important information to include.  Not everyone is going to be downloading podcasts and listening to them at their leisure; they may have neither the storage space nor a portable player.

I do think people who prefer an auditory learning style will like podcasts and that the library could use this tool for trainings for those people, as well as for library news.  Our outreach librarian had the following suggestions:

-A podcast on finding a job, plus career resources in the library.

-Podcasts highlighting databases and/or reference tips.

-Librarians could interview faculty members from their liaison areas about challenges students face when searching for research in their subject area.

-Historical information about our university or the local area [this might be good linked to old photos from our online collection]

-Book reviews [I liked Nancy Keane’s Booktalks Quick and Simple podcasts – all of them were exactly one minute long, good audio quality, consistent beginnings (music and Nancy introducing herself) and endings (title, author, publisher and year).  The only improvement I would make – and would do if we embedded book review podcasts into our website or blog – is add a photo of the cover of the book, particularly important in my opinion for children’s picture books.]

-Converting blog entries to audio format for people with visual disabilities.

Our access services librarian said, “I think that the library should try using podcasts to advertise events, or services available. Maybe do a vidcast of the library as a short tour.”  I’m with her on vidcasts/screencasts/webcasts – include those visuals, please!  One of our circulation supervisors suggested using them “to advertise our theme displays, what is available in the different departments, and how to use the library in general.”

Our instructional librarian said one professor here “made a podcast of one of our library sessions she had for a face-to-face class so she could upload it for her online class. In general, the students said they found it useful.”  Other ideas she had were:

– explanations of some “how to” steps: username & passwords, personal accounts in the catalog, etc.  These could make handy “Need Help” buttons on some of our web pages in “point of need” spots.

– If we had presentations by speakers, they could be podcast.

– Not sure how useful podcasts would be really for lengthy instructions (i.e. how to use a database), but they could be useful for a talking through of identifying search terms, search strategies, etc.

– Interesting idea about recording faculty comments . . . maybe they could tidbits like “What I mean by quality sources” and explanations of assignments?

Hmm – this has given me lots of ideas – looks like I’m going to have to explore making a podcast and give that a try!

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