As the pandemic progresses, librarians and librarian-podcasters have turned to digital solutions to engage kids and families in podcasting whether it is through creation, discovery, or facilitating podcast learning. These inspiring initiatives have created many new podcast makers and they have worked to amplify the stories in their communities and beyond.
Librarians are Creating Podcasts
Let’s start with an example of creation. In order to engage their community, a public library system partnered with organizations with similar missions, PBS KIDS, PRX, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to develop the ability to create their own podcast to share with their community of listeners. PBS-CPB used funds from the U.S. Department of Education to launch a podcast accelerator program called Ready to Learn. It selected six teams to create educational content for ages 4 to 8. One that applied was the team from the Brooklyn Public Library, including school outreach librarian Sheneatha Frison and children’s librarian Rachel Tiemann. One can listen to their podcast pilot Page Flippers below.
Librarians are Programming and Designing Resources for Podcast Discovery
This next example highlights a librarian from a small suburban library that focused on virtual programming and podcast discovery resources as avenues to engage her kids and families. Renée Cogan from the Melrose Public Library in Massachusetts introduced a virtual podcast club as a programming opportunity during the pandemic. Her original program was a virtual book club that morphed into a new way to connect, one that was a welcome and joyful addition to her programming schedule for her early elementary crowd. With the ability to virtually reach out and meet with various podcasters all over the world via Zoom, she had a lineup of podcast creators come to her podcast club which excited her attendees. She reached out to a local kid-host Ari Kelly from the podcast At Your Level after listening to his “Pandemic Birthdays” episode and connected internationally with the mother, Lyndee Prickitt, from the mother-daughter duo of the podcast Newsy Jacuzzi now Newsy Pooloozi from India. This timing was extremely interesting since they spoke with her right when the pandemic was surging in India. This is the episode that paired well with that discussion: “Corona resurgence, Japanese taste pops, glacier mice, Baby Shark, and baseball!”
When the library’s doors started to re-open, Renée had less time available and so she switched from programming to podcast advisory mode. She provided fliers (below) and web resources for her listeners to stay connected with the library when the club finished. She also purchased many of the books to podcasts selections for her physical collection to help her listeners stay enthusiastic about podcasts for kids and families. To her delight, these circulated well and she enjoyed many of the new connections she had made from her virtual time in person.
Librarians/ Podcasters are Facilitating Podcast Learning
In one final example, a podcast creator and media company looked to librarians as facilitators for their programs outside of the library. Bringing librarians on board brought in many talents and helped to generate a slew of diverse youth podcasters. From Literary Safari, a studio that makes inclusive children’s media comes the groundbreaking The Story Seeds Podcast, which connects children’s authors with kids to team up and create their own unique audio stories. Something that promotes literacy and diversity, similar to the mission of many libraries. Literary Safari collaborated with librarian Besty Birdy to narrate many of the podcast episodes.
In partnership, Literary Safari executed virtual podcast camps this past summer with librarians, Claudia Haines, Phoebe Owens, and Pamela Rogers, to name a few, as a way to educate and do outreach to more youth and their families ages 7 to 14, with hopes to diversify the creators of podcasts. These librarians put their programming knowledge to the test by facilitating interactive Zoom sessions, or a series of sessions, along with a Padlet that had a schedule full of interactive podcast-creation links and a line-up of speakers and slides from the field. The librarians are also are podcast creators and collaborators, so they were able to share strategies like creating sounds, storyboarding, and more for the youth makers. Librarian Claudia Haines hosted a recap of the podcast camp in The Story Seeds Podcast episode “Kids on Air with Family and Friends: Podcasting Camp Showcase” which includes audio clips made by the campers. It is fantastic to hear from the campers and also understand what kids can produce when they are given the tools to do it. Below is an image of her efforts and a trailer explaining them.
In 2021, many creative forces moved librarianship forward in the podcast space. One can see that the role of librarians in this area is wide and depending on the size of your library, and the technology that you have available to you or through partnership, you can begin new and energizing podcast engagement opportunities.
Here are podcast resources that could inspire you in 2022 to come up with new ways to both engage and amplify within your communities:
If you are looking to create content and build skills for your community, visit NPR Student Podcast Challenge and The Story Seeds Podcast. If you are looking for discovery tools for your community, visit Gen-Z Media, Kids Listen, and TRAX from PRX.
If you are looking to garner support for your podcast engagement opportunities, look at a report created by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center called “The Missing Middle” and a new upcoming report called “By/With/ For You” about digital media use with and for tweens and teens. Much of this research translates well to the childrens’ world.
Anne Bensfield is a proud member of the ALSC Children & Technology Committee, and she has worked at many different sized public libraries and in various positions throughout the Midwest. As a freelance writer, she has created over 35 kidcast lists and recommended over 400 episodes with Pamela Rogers, the creator of the wordplay podcast Buttons & Figs, through the School Library Journal Kidcast Series. While the podcast industry continues to grow and evolve, Anne has been an ambassador for many kidcast initiatives throughout the country with the intent of bringing libraries to the forefront of the conversation.