Podcasts: What Are They and What Role Can Librarians Play?

Podcasts are free radio shows—like those on National Public Radio (NPR). One can listen to podcasts at any time in any place. Imagine hitting "play" and listening to NPR shows while commuting, waiting on line, or doing chores. But podcasts are not limited to shows on NPR—they include shows and stories not found on TV, online, in print, or on the radio.

The main themes of this webinar are that podcasts have unique and useful scholarly and leisurely material that is easy to access and that librarians can be on the front lines of organizing and marketing them. Librarians will take away marketing and organizing ideas they can implement immediately, as well as ideas about marketing and organizing this relatively unknown medium in the future.

This webinar will appeal to any type of librarian because podcasts are available in most topics. There are shows about leisurely topics such as sports, storytelling, news, gardening, comedy, and yoga. There are shows about scholarly topics such as law, medicine, psychology, economics, and learning foreign languages. Podcast shows have celebrity guests, such as Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks, Louis CK, and Jon Hamm. Shows are also produced by known scholarly entities, such as New England Journal of Medicine and Bloomberg Law.

Originally presented on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

Learning Outcomes

Webinar attendees will learn:

  • about podcasts' role in scholarly and leisurely communication
  • how to listen to podcasts on desktop and mobile devices
  • how to market podcasts to the public. Librarians will take away ideas they can implement immediately.
  • how librarians can use their skills to organize podcast shows by using existing classification systems. Students will receive a spreadsheet of suggested podcast shows organized using the Library of Congress Classification System. Podcasts have a "discoverability problem," meaning there is no Google for podcasts. Librarians can help people discover content.
  • how librarians can start a discussion about future goals for organizing and marketing podcasts, such as creating a website that reviews podcast shows and a large database organizing podcast episodes

Who Should Attend

Librarians interested in organizing and marketing podcasts should attend the class. There is room for everyone—from one who has never heard a podcast to a podcast enthusiast.


Sheryl Ramer Gesoff is the director of the Health Sciences Library at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Elmhurst, New York. She is most interested in responding to the needs of hospital employees in innovative ways, including purchasing web-based tutorials, such as Rosetta Stone, and differential diagnosis programs, such as Isabel HealthCare. Sheryl’s favorite podcasts include Scientific American's 60 Second Science, Freakonomics, NPR's Fresh Air, StoryCorps, The Moth, and Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Christine Beardsley is interlibrary loan librarian at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City where she also serves as the library blog editor. She completed her MLIS in 2009 and has background in Anthropology. Christine is interested in the changing world of information and what libraries can do to aid in the future of technology and communication.




How to Register

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Tech Requirements

Computer with Internet access (high-speed connection is best) and media player software. Headphones recommended.

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