The library reaches beyond its walls and into your earbuds
Librarians in the popular imagination tend to be humorless people perpetually shushing the fun out of the less restrained. But, in real life, a lot of librarians are extroverts and performers at heart, as anyone who has stumbled onto a morning Story Time mid-singalong can attest. So, it is perhaps not surprising that a sizeable contingent of Harris County Public Library (HCPL) staff has been lobbying for a podcast—a forum to discuss the books, programs, and other topics they are passionate about, and, in turn, create a space for dialogue and discussion among its listeners.
This week HCPL released the debut episode of its monthly podcast Using Our Library Voices. Each month, the podcast will address a theme from a variety of perspectives with emphasis on entertaining, fast-paced, and informative features with resources designed to spark discussion among listeners. The first episode highlights some of the non-traditional library services and programs HCPL has to offer along with a welcome from the library’s Executive Director Edward Melton, an interview with the longest-tenured HCPL librarian, and a brief discussion of the library’s history in anticipation of its centennial celebration in 2021.
“We see Using Our Library Voices as another way for HCPL to reach beyond our walls and give our staff a chance to present themselves in a new way,” says Nancy Hu, Design and Communications Manager for HCPL who has spearheaded the podcast project. “We really want to spark discussion among our listeners, particularly within families, about topics of interest to them and about which we are passionate.”
The podcast is a collaborative effort put together by a diverse group of HCPL staff from many of the system’s 26 branches scattered across Harris County. Each member of the podcast team has their own areas of expertise, so each episode will include a wide range of voices and perspectives. As library professionals, all are committed to providing accurate and reliable information and the podcast will feature conversations with outside experts when topics warrant.
With the ongoing pandemic and the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in Texas and across the country, HCPL continues to explore new ways to reach customers while the library is closed to the public. "Using Our Library Voices gives us the opportunity to let them into our libraries without being in the library,” says John Harbaugh, podcast producer and Assistant Branch Librarian for Youth Services at HCPL’s Parker Williams Branch Library. “They get to hear about our services, book recommendations, and even some interesting candor from our staff members. It's another communication tool to bring them services through and beyond our walls."
Even as they debut the first episode of their podcast, the library is looking to the future. “Using Our Library Voices is just the first piece in what we hope to be a network of podcasts that will allow HCPL staff to take listeners on deep dives into more specialized areas of interest like anime, horror, children’s literature and more,” says Hu, “And we’re exploring ways to give library users a way to participate.”