Podcasts: Resources for Listening and Recording

It started with an addiction tothe Serial podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig created by those of This American Life. It was a true-crime story of the murder of a high school girl in 1999 in Baltimore. The presumed killer is her ex-boyfriend. Over the course of each episode, Koenig’s voice pulls listeners into the story, only to have to wait for the next installment. But it’s better than waiting a year or more for your favorite series book to come out. That’s the best part of podcasting, there can be a quicker turnaround than the process of publishing a book. And with the right tools, any teen can create a podcast and any youth services librarian can help with it. 

The addiction to Serial then led to the second season about Bowe Bergdahl and wanting to hear more. Sometimes there isn’t time to watch and listen, you just want to listen: while running, while doing a mundane task, while riding public transportation. So I wanted a place that was able to pull these podcasts together on my device, so I downloaded Stitcher, an app that provides “radio on demand”, allowing you to add podcastsmicrophone to your playlist, listening now or later, with my new favorite being The Moth Radio Hour, which has helped scientists map out the brain in this article by the LA Times. Others include Radiolab or iTunes or directly on sites where you can listen from your PC or  that provide the RSS like NPR.  

The suggestion like getting your feet wet with Twitter is that you lurk for a while. So queue up podcasts that interest you, whether it’s fitness tips from personal trainers to new TED talk topics, see what’s out there. Really listen to them. What do you like about the broadcast? Does it have some great theme music or does the person have a fantastic voice that is slow enough to understand? Does the podcast interview others or is it one person talking? Does it seem like it has a focus or is it unscripted? When I was listening, I would think about whether I could create a podcast and would anyone listen? What would I talk about? If you already know the answers to these questions, get started with your teens. It might be that you’re creating a new avenue for delivering school news and information and the podcast is created weekly by teen journalists. Or maybe your teen book group just finished reading dystopian novels and want to review their favorites.

There are plenty of articles and blog posts about podcasting with teens as a makerspace activity or providing an avenue to listen using School Library Journal’s curated list of teen-friendly podcasts. When you and your teens are ready, YALSA created a Tune In tip sheet in 2008 during Teen Tech Week. And easy access to places like Garageband and Audacity to do the recording and within many of the applications for creating audio content, the ability to host and then share them makes it a tool that gives teens a voice. And they’re in charge of the process, whether they’re recording individually by hosting their own spots of favorite music or musings or whether they’re working collaboratively on a review of new dystopian releases by interviewing each other, adults can provide guidance and recommendations without having to control the entire process.  

In our high school library, we’re not quite ready to be creating original content for a podcast, but we’re certainly adding podcasts to our recommended summer learning resources. In the future, I imagine a group of teens providing book recommendations and programming advertisements for our mountain of activities throughout the year, but who knows? At least I know how we’ll be able to get started, in the meantime, I’m enjoying listening to others creating rich content that suits my interests that I can also share with teens in the library.

Have you been successful with teens in creating podcasts? Hosting a podcast listening program? Do you curate podcast recommendations for teens? Share your experiences and ideas! 

— Alicia Abdul, currently reading The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan