There is an exciting movement in the library marketing world! More libraries are creating podcasts as a way to reach cardholders, tell stories, and share information. My own library is in season three of a podcast, Inside the Writer’s Head. Each month, our Library Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence sits down with authors, publishers, and editors to talk about the writing process. The real value lies in the intimate connection we create with a listener. We usually get about 20 minutes of their undivided attention for these conversations. How often do you get the chance to talk one-on-one with your cardholders for that long?
I recently asked library marketers from around the United States and Canada about their podcasts. They have some amazing insights and advice about how to make the recording, editing, and distribution process work. One library marketer even responded to my questions by recording her answers in a podcast! Now you can fill your own podcast feed with library shows and be inspired.
Andrew Murphy, Library Director, Sitka Public Library in Sitka, AK
Podcast: Sitka Sounds
How long it’s been in production: Since early 2018
Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Podcasts are a simple, but great medium to offer other library services. Many libraries have conducted oral history projects in the past and I view podcasts as a 21st-century extension of that service that is not limited to oral histories.
What is the goal of your podcast? To offer engaging content to our customers both in Sitka and off our island while including our local community members in the process.
Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I initiated the service and created a few different series with different audiences in mind but the idea was always to allow all staff, and perhaps even the community members, access to develop their own series. I am in the process of moving to a different library and several staff members are trained and interested in developing different content for the service. Each episode only takes as long as the recording itself and about an equal amount of time to edit and upload.
How do you measure or quantify success? I don’t value success solely on stats and how many listens each episode receives. Our oral history project with Nancy Ricketts is being preserved by the State Library of Alaska. Obviously, they found value in the content itself – even if the series doesn’t attract a lot of immediate listeners. My hope for all the content is to preserve it for posterity. One of our series features local writers sharing their work. I believe the content has the potential to have a great value many years from now. Perhaps the grandchildren of the writers will find some meaning it or perhaps one of the writers will become world renown. It also functions like a time capsule for the culture of local writers in Sitka.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Invest in a good microphone.
Gregory McCormick, Manager, Cultural and Special Event Programming and Digital Media Team, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, ON, Canada
Podcast: Four series in production, none have finalized titles yet.
Launched: We are aiming to launch 2-3 series in the fall.
Why did your library decide to start a podcast? To support one of our strategic priorities to make as much content accessible to as many people as possible.
What is the goal of your podcast? To increase reach and to support books and literature. We also have specific goals for each podcast such as appealing to specific communities or to link library service.
Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I am the executive producer of all of them but we have other producers involved in varying capacities. Episodes take anywhere from a few hours to a week to produce.
How do you measure or quantify success? Listeners/audience, social media buzz.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Don’t underestimate the time and staffing necessary. Very time-consuming.
Jenna Hassell, Community Relations and Marketing Coordinator, Jacksonville Public Library, Jacksonville, FL.
Podcast: Completely Booked
Launched: June 11, 2018
Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our library has recorded a weekly segment for our local NPR stations Radio Reading Service frequency for the blind and visually impaired for many years. Our marketing department recently took over the recording of this segment and was having a good time writing the script each week and using our Jax Makerspace recording equipment to record it. Because of this, we decided that a podcast would a great fit for our department and invested in the equipment to start one.
What is the goal of your podcast? To bring information and stories to our customers and community in the format they want to receive it. We also want to give local residents a platform to tell their stories and have them archived.
Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The podcast is created by me and my co-host, who is a part-time social media specialist in our department. Our full-time graphic designer produces and edits the show. We truly would not have started this project if we did not have our graphic designer on staff who knew audio editing really well already. We spend about 45 minutes with the guests we interview, then we spend about 10 minutes recording the intro and outro with just the two hosts. Our producer spends about an hour and a half to two hours editing the episodes and adding the theme music he created himself. So we spend about three hours on each episode.
How do you measure or quantify success? We are currently only looking at total listens. However, in our first episode, we talked about a local artist who had work in our current gallery exhibit. Someone who listened to that episode came into the library to view the work and ended up buying one of his pieces. We think that is a pretty incredible success story.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Make sure you have hosts who mesh well and are comfortable together. It can be intimidating talking on a mic. But when the two people talking are comfortable and are just themselves, it is much more enjoyable to listen to. Don’t rely too heavily on promotion. People listen to podcasts to be entertained and to be informed, not to be preached at or persuaded to come to your library program. A subtle plug or an interesting story about someone who used your services goes a lot farther.
Christie Lassen, Director of Communications and Partnerships, Howard County Library System, Ellicott City, MD.
Launched: October 2016
Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our previous CEO suggested the idea, and I asked two members of my team to brainstorm ideas. Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman jumped at the opportunity to co-host.
What is the goal of your podcast? Our goal is to attract nationally known guests in connection with the podcast’s focus. We tie it back to the library with either someone from our system or from the larger community. For example, our very first podcast featured Forrest Pritchard, the well-known farmer and bestselling author, a local farmer who attends a weekly farmers market at one of our branches, and a local farm-to-table restaurant owner.
Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? Podcasts are created by two members of the Communications team: Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman. Research, scripting, hosting and post-production takes between 25-30 hours per episode.
How do you measure or quantify success? In addition to tracking the number of listeners, we gauge our success on the caliber of guests we attract. In addition, the podcast won a MarCom Gold award and honorable mention by Hermes Creative Awards.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? When trying to find guests, don’t be afraid to ask for an interview. The worse they can say is “no”.
Kanya Lyons, Public Information Specialist Sr., Office of Programs and Partnerships, Austin Public Library, Austin, TX.
Launched: September 2015
Just to be different, she responded to my questions with a podcast! Listen to her answers here.
Angela Hursh, Content Team Leader-Marketing, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH (that’s me!)
Podcast: Inside the Writer’s Head
Launched: December 2016
Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Every year, our Library Foundation chooses a Writer-in-Residence. Our Adult Programming Manager helps that person create a schedule of learning-oriented events for their tenure. During the second year of the Writer-in-Residence program, we launched our MakerSpace, which has a full-service recording studio. We thought it would be a great way to use that new equipment and reach a new audience.
What is the goal of your podcast? To inspire potential and current writers.
Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The Writer-in-Residence is in control of the content and production. We use our MakerSpace audio booth to record their interviews. Our social media specialist takes the audio file and edits it out any errors or retakes, then adds the intro, tag, and theme music. The recording takes about an hour. The editing takes one to two hours.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Promotion is key. We send a link to the podcast out to our cardholders via email each month and listens go way up after that email goes out.
Here are some other library marketing podcasts I love. I hope you do too!
Library Matters, produced by the Montgomery County Library in Maryland.
Check It Out, produced by the Sno-Isle Libraries in Washington state.
The Librarian Is In, produced by the New York Public Library.
Dewey Decibel, produced by the American Library Association.
Professional Book Nerds, produced by Overdrive.
The Library Podcast, produced by Turbitt & Duck.
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