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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trend Alert: Podcast RA- Stop Making Excuses and Start Doing It

I am working on a webinar for my local library system entitled: What’s To Come in 2018?: Assessing and Staying On Top of Adult Leisure Reading and Collection Development Trends. Here is the description:

For library workers who assist leisure readers, whether it is from the front desk, the reference desk, or as you roam the stacks, staying on top of the latest trends is imperative. Our patrons expect us to know what’s hot before they do. They expect us to have the items ready and waiting for them as soon as they request them. And with all of the other job duties we have to worry about, sometimes we are not a responsive to the most current trends as we could be. But assessing trends in leisure reading and collection development is an essential job duty, and it is not nearly as difficult as you may think. Join noted Readers’ Advisory expert Becky Spratford for a webinar that will be fun and useful. She will walk you through the current trends in adult leisure collections and teach you the tips and tricks you can use to stay in the know all year long. Before you know it, your library will be trending in your community.
This program will look back at the biggest leisure reading and collection development trends of 2017 and look ahead at what will be trending in those areas in 2018. In this webinar I will do more than list trends, however, I am also going to teach you how to stay on top of trends all year long and use that information to make your collection as responsive as possible to your patrons’ tastes. An in true Becky fashion, I even have a few unorthodox surprises.

The live version of this webinar will be on Thursday, January 18, 2018 from 9:30-11 am central, but you need to be a member of RAILS to attend. They will make the recording available on their YouTube page for everyone reading this to be able to access it though.

As part of my preparation for this program I have been more intensively researching the current trends in leisure reading. Of course I am always doing this as my "Trending” tagged posts attest to; in fact, the increased frequency of these posts it what led me to turn these ideas into a webinar in the first place. But because I want this program to be as useful [and fun] as possible, I am looking at all areas of collection development-- including weeding.

Which leads to today's post, a post that will also be useful to you at the Thanksgiving table as I am sure some of your friends and family will be asking you about this very topic. Why? Because it is a huge trend-- the increase in the number of people who listen to podcasts. Seriously, everyone has a podcast the listen to. Even grandma. Many of us will be asked about podcasts and which ones are good this holiday, but we should also use the holiday as a chance to ask our friends and family about their podcast habits. As you will see below, it will serve you as a great practice exercise for when you go back to work. Also, what are your other options to talk about? Politics? Sexual Harassment?

The increase in people listening to podcasts is also one of the reasons industry experts are citing in response to the huge increases in audiobook sales. It is past time for us to be thinking about Listen-Alikes and Read Alikes to go with podcasts-- and I don’t just mean giving the Welcome to Nightvale podcast fans the books based on the series either.

There is one obstacle in our way to providing podcast advisory, it is an argument a director gave to me when I suggested he provide this service to his patrons, and it is valid but misguided. He said that his staff shouldn’t help people find more podcasts because podcasts are not circulated by the library.

Well, this is true, BUT we help people find answers to reference questions all of the time and those questions have nothing to do with what we circulate. Someone who needs information about a government service for example. We look up the answer and help them, but not a thing circulates in this transaction. If you look at a patron who wants more podcasts like the one they are currently obsessed with as a reference question, there is no way you wouldn’t help them.

However, the bigger issue here is that podcasts are a HUGE trend and we need to be more responsive to what our patrons are currently excited about. We need to anticipate what they want. So if we know that people are listening to more podcasts, why don’t we have “If you like Lore, here are some books you may enjoy too” displays. The resistance to doing this reminds me of when people were hesitant to make “If you like________ TV show/movie” book displays read this book. It used to just be books made into movies and now we have many “Read, Watch, Listen” type displays. [People, that wasn’t too long ago.]

But Becky, how do I know about all the different podcasts so I can help them find a book or audiobook to match? The answer-- you don’t have to know! Just like you don’t have to know about every book. What you do have to know is how to talk to patrons about WHY they enjoy that podcast. And guess what?  That is the same skill you use when talking to them about the books they like. Stop making excuses and start doing your job.

Ask patrons what podcasts they listen to and why they enjoy them. Listen for the adjectives-- the narration, the tone, the pacing, the characters, etc.... You can then use your traditional RA resources to find them a book or audio book to match their appeal preferences.

I know this may seem daunting to some of you, but fear not, I have a resource to get your started. This month, Library Journal had a wonderful article about podcasts with  listen-alikes. It was their audiobooks column so all the suggestions are to listen to which I understand, BUT please don’t forget that not all podcast listeners ONLY want to listen in their free time. Yes, audiobooks are the most natural segue-way, but I also know that an increase in listening to storytelling [and by the way, whether it is nonfiction or fiction, podcasts tell a story-- end of discussion.] has led some people to read more books. I have seen it with my own patrons and family members. Many get hooked on consuming stories and crave more and more. Books are a natural bridge to more stories.

We need to be asking about podcasts as part of the RA conversation regularly now. It is a great way to assess what type of story the patron would like. We need to offer them audio and print options. We need to more regularly make podcast to library item suggestions in lists and displays. Why not pick a small area to do it weekly? All it would take is a print out of the podcast logo as a sign and then put out a few books to go with it. You could rotate that frequently and easily.

We need to let patrons know that even though we don’t “circulate” podcasts we still want to help fans of this medium find more options for their leisure time, things we do have that they would love, if only they knew about them. See, it is exactly the same job we do when matching books with readers.

On a side note, I think we have to start thinking of our job in RA service as matching stories with readers. But that’s a post for another day.

And if you are reading this and nodding along because your library is already having a lively discussion about podcasts in these ways, BRAVO. But don’t rest on your laurels. The next step in this process is to host Podcast Discussion Groups. Yes, you read that right- Podcast Discussion Groups. Pick a thought provoking podcast episode, assign it to be listened to, or listen to it together, and then have a discussion.

There is always more to do as we assess trends and figure out where the library can fit in and be responsive to our patrons and their current obsessions. And sometimes we get lucky, as this podcast trend attests to, because we are already well prepared to step in immediately.

This will be my last post of the week. Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving everyone. And don’t forget to ask everyone at the dinner table what podcast they are listening to.

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