A First Try at Podcasting

On January 5, our library launched a podcast version of the library self-guided tour. This is the first publishable draft of the podcast, and we’re continuing to get feedback that we’re incorporating into later versions. It’s a little too early to tell how successful the tour will be, but I can tell you that the mp3 file of the podcast has been downloaded almost 30 times since the 5th.

We began the project by transcribing our Self-Guided Tour (originally written by librarians) into a less jargony (and hopefully more hip) podcast script written by students. We knew that students would be the primary audience for the podcast tour, so we had some of our reference desk assistants help us with the wording of the tour. When the script was fine-tuned into a manageable form, we took the script and recorded ourselves as we walked around the library. We felt that it was important to actually walk the tour while recording in order to get the timing right. The voice in the podcast is Sherri Saines, one of my colleagues in reference. She narrated the tour while I followed her around with a laptop and a microphone. We just used Audacity and a cheap headphone microphone to record and edit the audio. Probably the most time-intensive part of the project was re-writing the tour since we requested (and received) a lot of feedback from our students and library staff. I believe that Sherri did an excellent job of harnessing all the different ideas into a very good script.  Recording the tour of all seven floors of the library took only about an hour as Sherri had a good deal of practice reading the script beforehand. Editing and splicing of the audio, uploading the files to our web server, and making a blog post and web page for the podcast were all done in about four hours or less. (And that’s mostly because I didn’t quite know what I was doing at the time).

We’re currently working on a version of the tour that is led by a student, and we’ll give our users the choice of who they want to lead them. Future versions of the tour will include versions in other languages. For starters, we hope to have Chinese, Korean, Malay, Thai, and Swahili versions to help assist our international student patrons. We don’t really have a deadline for these versions yet, but I’ll let you know when they’re posted. Finally, we’ve got an iPod on order that we’ll check out to patrons to use with the tour, so users won’t have “no iPod” as an excuse to avoid taking our tour.

The tour is designed to hit the high points of the library, not to overwhelm with every little detail of the library. The tour hits all seven floors of our library and points out the collections and cool things to do throughout the building. Our basic theme of the tour is that the library can be a big and confusing place (we as library staff are very aware of that fact), but we are here to help at any time, any place, to make your visit to the library an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Only time will tell how successful the podcast tour will be. I have high hopes, as it seems that 2 out of 3 students have an iPod. If the podcast tour is a hit, I want to use the success of the podcast tour to persuade bibliographers and other departments to start podcasting. Our Archives and Special Collections department has already expressed an interest in using podcasts to highlight various events and collections, so this might be a good start to getting others on board. Perhaps this is a little ambitious, but you sometimes have to aim high to be able to hit any sort of target at all.