Thursday, March 8, 2007

using podcasts in libraries

As much as I like iTunes, I don't think I'd put it on a public access computer in a library. For one thing, you don't want people subscribing to a bunch of podcasts that are going to eat up your bandwidth and disk storage space. For another, there are a number of podcasts with explicit content that are probably not appropriate for general listening. Can internet filters screen out podcasts with explicit content? Might be an interesting experiment. Leave a comment if you have any insights.

So, how can you make use of some of this great content? First, you might want to consider whether or not you want to. Listening or watching a podcast in the library will require either speakers (which may disturb others) or headphones. Downloading and copying audio or video files to flash drives or MP3 players will no doubt take some time and attention from staff. But these may also constitute valued customer service, especially if you're in an area where broadband connections for the public are far from common.

Probably the easiest way to make podcast content available to your users is to integrate it into a Protopage. You can see that I have a podcast widget on both the Nancy Pearl page and the News page.
Since these are reading actual podcast feeds, I don't have to update them. They are updated automatically whenever a new program is added. All a patron has to do to listen to one of the programs is click on play. The player is built into Protopage.

You can also select individual programs and link them from your library's web page or blog. For example here's:

A Beginner's Guide to Podcasting: Part 1 - A Consumer's Guide from If you're interested in more information about this broadcast, check out the event web page.

You can click on that link and listen to the MP3 file in whatever media software is set up on your computer for MP3 files. If you put this on a library web page, you'll probably also want to include a link to a free media player like Windows Media Player.

Another option is to link to the program's website for audio/video content. Often the website creators will offer additional options for viewing or listening to content.

A good example is Yellowstone InDepth that I mentioned yesterday as an example of video podcasts. The video available from iTunes was in a copy-protected format. On the website, they offer a .WMV Windows Media Viewer option in a dial-up or broadband format. I can also save it to my computer and convert it to play on my MP3 player. Yea! Nothing like viewing the wonders of Yellowstone on a 2 inch screen. But the point is it works and the National Park Service was savvy enough to accommodate users with different devices.

This reinforces my view that there is great potential in this area as well as some problems, but it's exciting nonetheless.

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