Readers, you are in for a treat.
I attended a session hosted by Jeff Laser at the Ohio Library Council Conference in Cincinnati. His tips on creating a great library podcast were clear, concise, and actionable.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about library podcasts, having helped launch and promote Inside the Writer’s Head, now in its fifth season. Turns out, I did not know everything. But Jeff does! And that’s why I asked him to share his knowledge with you. This post was written by him.
Jeff Laser is an Adult Services Librarian at Bexley Public Library in Columbus, Ohio. He has worked at BPL since 2012 and in that time has helped launch services such as Book-a-Librarian and is the host of the BPL Podcast. He has a BM in Music Composition from Capital University and an MLIS from Kent State University.
Podcast Like a Pro by Jeff Laser
So why start a podcast at your library? As we move further into the 21st century, libraries are increasingly looking for ways to serve the public beyond our physical walls. Podcasts allow just that.
In addition, they provide a platform to discuss important (and fun!) topics and promote library services. It’s also a great way to utilize staff talent, offering a unique, creative outlet that is both fun and stimulating.
That said, one of the main reasons Bexley Public Library (BPL) decided to give a library podcast an earnest shot was to leverage our high caliber adult programming. We host a range of speakers, professors, writers, and other experts to discuss a variety of subjects including social justice, literature, culture, and more. The podcast gives us a unique opportunity to have a concise conversation about these subjects in a format that is accessible beyond just the one-night speaking engagement. This gives patrons who are unable to attend the program itself an entertaining and convenient alternative.
Even if your library doesn’t have a similar focus on adult programming, don’t fret. There are several directions a podcast can go besides the traditional host-interviewing-guest structure. Narrative podcasts (e.g. Serial or Welcome to Night Vale) tell a story across multiple episodes. Review podcasts, such as Binge Mode, focus on a particular book, movie, or television show for in-depth discussion.
How Much Will It Cost?
Being a public library means having a limited budget. Employees need to justify expenses. Realizing this, Bexley Public Library purchased equipment that has multiple functions at the library.
For example, we use the same equipment for the library podcast that we use to record our oral history interviews, and to record full-length programs from time to time. We also make the equipment available for our patrons to use.
The initial expense for starting a podcast doesn’t need to be outrageous. Free software such as Audacity or GarageBand will work just fine. Quality microphones can be purchased for around $100 each. Add a few accessories like pop filters and boom, and you’re ready to record.
Making a Great Podcast
Interview preparation goes a long way to ensure an engaging conversation with your guest. Familiarize yourself with their material and come up with a few questions.
During the interview, allow yourself to go off-script and ask follow-up questions. If you know you and your guest share common interests, ask about them! Capturing that human connection is one of the most fruitful parts of podcasting and one of the primary reasons the format has grown exponentially.
Editing is arguably as important as preparation. If you come across long silences, excessive filler words, unwanted background noise, or even just generally uninteresting passages, remove them! Remember, however, the goal is to keep the human element intact. Don’t go as far as removing every single “um”, “uh”, or slight pause in the conversation. Keep it sounding natural.
From the technical side of things, less is usually more with podcast editing. I stick with equalization, compression, and reverb. A high-pass filter is useful for removing unwanted low sounds such as hums, fans, etc. Compression will help even out the peaks and valleys of your audio track for a smoother listening experience. Finally, a bit of reverb will add some depth to your recording (not too much though or it will sound like your interview was recorded in a gymnasium!)
Getting Your Podcast Out There
You have a few great interviews edited and ready to go, what now? First, you’ll want to find a hosting solution for your podcast. Popular options include Blubrry, Libsyn, and WordPress. BPL uses Podbean, which allows unlimited upload time for $108 per year. These services will guide you through setting up your Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, which will allow you to submit your podcast to various platforms. You’ll provide information about your podcast during this process, such as artwork, title, author, and description.
Once your RSS feed is ready, submit it to as many platforms as you can: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify. The process is easy and the more platforms you’re on, the easier it will be for listeners to find you.
Don’t overlook the importance of branding your podcast. Even if you aren’t a graphic designer, you can create simple but effective graphics by using tools such as Canva. (Note from Angela: If you are a LibraryAware user, you can also use a widget template to make your podcast graphic.)
Include brief theme music during your podcast to make it more memorable. If you don’t have the ability to create a jingle, try royalty-free music websites such as Bensound.
Marketing your podcast on a limited budget is challenging but not impossible. Try to utilize your guest’s social media following. Ask them to post (or re-post your content) about the podcast. A pull quote graphics (see below) is an easy way to draw people into any given episode and works well across social media platforms. Try placing an embeddable player in a prominent space on your library website to allow for spontaneous discovery and easy listening.
Go for It!
Now that you have an idea of the basics, give it a shot! If you’re looking for inspiration, check out the podcasts I linked above, or perhaps some library related podcasts such as The Librarian Is In, Lost in the Stacks, Book Squad Podcast, or (of course) The BPL Podcast. Hosting a podcast is truly one of the most unique and rewarding things I’ve done in my professional career, and it could be for you too!
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