Aisha Conner-Gaten on Managing a Podcast Series

Before I was a librarian at Loyola Marymount University, I was a brand new graduate in my very first professional position tasked with supervising a team of graduate students in instructional design. While I prided myself on facilitating and creating learning environments for people to do their very best, I had no clue how to be a manager. I looked to my professional community via the American Librarian Association for insight and guidance and quickly joined the Library Leadership & Management Association or LLAMA, specifically the newly formed New Professional Community of Practice (NPCP).

Established to help “[Library and Information Sciences] students and new professionals gain the leadership and management skills they need as they lead from where they are and move into influential roles,” the NPCP included new and emerging professionals like me seeking practical answers to increasingly difficult management problems. In addition to having in-depth conversations and sharing resources about managing and professional development, NPCP encouraged team-based work to collaborate with peers and develop new skill sets. I recently joined the Podcast team, headed by Team Leader Heather James, for this year to gain experience coordinating, interviewing, and producing podcast episodes. The NPCP podcast, entitled “Break Room Chats,” asks our information colleagues and managers about their experience (and pitfalls) in the industry.

What are Break Room Chats exactly about?

“Break Room Chat” episodes generally have two functions: (1) to provide experience to new professionals using podcasts for outreach and professional development and (2) to introduce, promote, and inquire about the experiences of librarians and information professionals. Like a lot of industries, library and information science (LIS) tends to highlight the voices of very specific types of people. Those who adhere to normalized “professional” standards (i.e. whiteness, performative femininity, niceness, etc.) and contribute articles, books, and presentations the most consistently tend to receive a lot of attention and admiration from our peers. While these accolades are not undeserved, those working with communities in exceptional ways may not be highlighted if they do not have the time or means to produce in these accepted ways. “Break Room Chats” invites those working at every level to share their goals and insight throughout their career and promote sectors of LIS that may not often be discussed openly. Interviewees are invited by NPCP team members Heather James, Jessica Kiebler, Puck Robin Goodfellow Malamud, and I for natural conversations about LIS work.

How do you produce a podcast episode?

At the start of each podcast season, team members meet and discuss possible topics to cover. We use Google Sheets to create a general schedule including metadata or information about each podcast (e.g. title, interviewer, transcriptionist, etc.). Folks sign up based on what they would like to learn and we create timelines for each episode. The interviewer takes the lead on finding interviewees, communicating our intent as creators, and the modes of recording. Most of us are employed at universities that have Zoom or other online conferencing systems that record meetings and generate transcripts automatically. After interviewing and downloading files from these systems, the assigned team members edit audio using Audacity, upload to Dropbox for sharing, and review the transcript in Google Docs. Once everything is reviewed, it is uploaded to our Soundcloud account. Currently the Soundcloud account is undergoing some changes, so the team is using to track stats and uploading the audio to an online server for now.

What sort of topics have been covered so far?

With the goal to discuss leadership and management at multiple levels, there’s a wide variety of topics addressed by professionals beginning and well into their LIS careers. To start, I would suggest our episodes on Graphic Design with Kate Conerton and Building a Mindful Practice with Amanda M. Leftwich. Each episode talks with a specialist on the topic of beginning a new skillset and focuses on there are multiple ways to learn (usually by making mistakes). There’s also a series of interviews with community college librarians (Part 1 with Shamika Simpson & Part 2 with Eva Rios-Alvarado) which given our immense educational landscape in California was really informative.

What’s next for “Break Room Chats”?

LLAMA has now merged with several other divisions (ALCTS and LITA) to form the CORE as of June 2020 so it’s not clear how NPCP will look as of yet. Regardless, there’s hope to continue some sort of podcast work, especially integrating the newest members of the organization and their varied expertise. I would also encourage folks to explore LIS conversations outside of ALA including WOC+LIB, wehere uproot, critlib Twitter chats, and INALJ’s series on non-LIS jobs.