ALA Midwinter 2020

A Peak at the PopTop Stage at #alamw20

If you have never been to Midwinter, you probably at least know about the exhibit hall, the goodies, the swag, and of course, the ARCs. But did you know there are also opportunities to hear from authors, library influencers, and publishers? The Book Buzz Theater and the PopTop Stage have scheduled sessions during the exhibit floor’s open hours. Because of my committee commitments, the only one I have had time for was a session about authors and podcasting. All three adult authors have written books that are now audiobooks. And all three podcast.

three authors wait behind a table on a stage while their publisher representative speaks behind a podium As a children’s and YA lit person, I am not familiar with Dani Shapiro, Gretchen Rubin, or Charles Duhigg, all adult authors. The conversation covers the unique art forms of audiobooks and podcasts, the differences between the two, and what sets them apart from print media. The conversation touches on key talking points for promoting audio material—talking points that are just as useful for youth services librarians.

On listening to audiobooks and podcasts, Rubin compares it to sitting on a mat at story time. For her, it’s the sound of someone reading a book to her that makes her so fond of audiobooks. For Shapiro, its the chance to learn and artistry. “My vocabulary has expanded because I’m using more words more confidently since I’ve heard them pronounced. Also, soundscaping is its own art form. It elevates and supports the audio. And when there’s silence, the silence is very powerful.” Podcasts are also all about storytelling. Discussing his own podcast, Duhigg says, “When you take an idea and embed it in a story, it’s so much better to learn.” I myself have used some version of all of these points when convincing a parent that audiobooks are real books.

On making audiobooks and podcasts, I also learned a lot about production, and how meticulous the process is. How stomach-rumbling is muffled with a pillow over the belly. How music and sound effects add that extra emotional connection and sense of story. This is useful to me because I run the makerspace at my public library, and this was a great opportunity for me to think about using the makerspace to help young people make podcasts—and tell their own stories. It is my professional obligation to provide young people with multiple and varied opportunities to connect with one another and form communities. Podcasts are very personal, the panelists agree. Listening to a podcast “is like eavesdropping on a very interesting conversation,” Shapiro says. “There can be this casualness to the podcast form,” Duhigg says. But the best part, he adds, is that these are art forms that are still pretty new. Audiobooks are not print books. Podcasting isn’t radio. “You get to have a conversation about its rules. What’s ethical and artistically meaningful without someone jumping down your throat.”

As we develop our collections and our programs to meet shifting community needs and interests, we should look for these conversations that celebrate expanding art forms and storytelling modes. Audiobooks and podcasting are both on the rise, and this conversation makes me very excited to continue incorporating them into my library’s collections and programs.

*Note: The dialogue has been compiled from my notes and is as close as possible to the original quotes. Updated 1/27/20 to include the note about vocabulary in paragraph three.

Erica Ruscio is a Young Adult Librarian at Ventress Memorial Library in Marshfield, MA. She is currently serving on ALSC’s Advocacy & Legislation Committee and on YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction 2020 Committee.

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