If you had asked me about podcasts a year ago, I would have told you that I had tried listening to a few, but had never gotten hooked on one. I simply preferred listening to audiobooks and music. However, that changed in early 2019, when, thanks to my PLN, I stumbled across two podcasts created by and for school librarians: School Librarians United with Amy Hermon and Checked In: A MASL Podcast with Ethan Evans.
Now I regularly listen to both of them. These podcasts keep me connected to school librarianship in a way that’s convenient and engaging. I can listen whenever I want, and I always look forward to the next episode.
I enjoy these podcasts so much that I think school librarians everywhere should know about them. So, here’s a little background on each podcast. Many thanks to Amy Hermon and Ethan Evans for agreeing to be interviewed via e-mail for this blog post.
School Librarians United is a weekly podcast “dedicated to the nuts and bolts of running a successful school library.” Created, written, and hosted by Amy Hermon, an elementary school librarian in Michigan, it premiered on August 27, 2018, and is currently comprised of thirty-eight episodes. Season one covered a wide variety of topics of interest to school librarians at any stage in their career, including weeding, self-censorship, classroom libraries, collaboration, Genius Hour, Dr. Seuss, advocacy, and graphic novels. On average, episodes run about thirty minutes.
Amy was inspired to create her own podcast because she saw a need. A devoted podcast listener for several years, Amy listened to and benefited professionally from podcasts dedicated to children’s literature, educational technology, and teaching. However, she says she was unable to find “a podcast which would help me and speak to the unique issues which impact school librarians specifically.” So she created one noting, “Podcasting is a perfect platform to reach a niche audience and I took a chance.”
You don’t have to listen to School Librarians United for very long to realize that Amy is a researcher at heart. She says, “I love the research aspect of preparing for an episode and I’ll go down that Internet rabbit hole.” As a result, her podcast episodes are thoughtful and thorough; she delves into issues, backs up her ideas with data, and cites her sources. Moreover, she posts links to all of her cited material in the show notes on her podcast’s website. This is particularly helpful because in every episode I’ve listened to, Amy has mentioned an article or a resource I’ve wanted to know more about.
The best thing about listening to School Librarians United is that it has given me another trusted colleague. By listening to Amy each week, I’ve come to think of her as someone I know (even though we’ve never met in person) and can count on if I ever need her advice or expertise. I know she is one of the librarians in my PLN who will keep me up to date on the issues in school librarianship I need to know about. I’m guessing many of Amy’s other listeners feel the same way as she has listeners in all 50 states as well as downloads in more than 60 countries around the world.
Amy says that season two of School Librarians United will be available in late August with an episode on advice for first-year librarians. Of season two, Amy adds, “I am planning to have episodes about Littles in your Library, SEL, ISTE Certification, Banned Book Week, genre-fication, gender and fiction, and dismantling a library. I want to do interviews on topics I am less familiar such as makerspace, LGBTQIA, and inclusivity in our collections. I would also like to revisit collaboration and strategies for overwhelmed school librarians (which is all of us).”
Amy is open to suggestions for episode topics. She says, “What I really prefer is that listeners reach out with their own suggestions for episodes. Recording episodes is so much more meaningful when I know listeners are directly benefiting. If anyone has a specialty or particular passion when it comes to programming, please reach out! I’d love to interview you.”
You can connect with Amy via:
Checked In is a bimonthly podcast sponsored by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) and hosted by Ethan Evans, a Missouri high school librarian. Checked In premiered on January 6, 2019. The first season consisted of ten episodes that focused on topics such as book clubs, makerspaces, diversity in publishing, and collaboration with teachers. Though the topics are similar (in some cases identical) to ones Amy Hermon addressed in season one of School Librarians United, the approach is different. Checked In is more casual in tone and structure, with episode length ranging from twenty minutes to fifty-four minutes.
Ethan says that when he started Checked In, “I was really trying to make something that would have appealed to me as a first-year school librarian just because the position can often be a bit lonely. No one really knows what you do and if you’re like me, you had a thousand questions before you even got started on the job. So I wanted to build a resource for those individuals.”
But now, Ethan believes Checked In is a program for school librarians at any point in their careers. He says, “I’ve realized that a lot of the questions I had early on are questions you continue to have as your career progresses. You don’t just learn the perfect answer to ‘How do I create the best book club for my students?’ and that’s it. The answers to these questions evolve over time depending on the kids you have, the time you have with those kids, hearing a cool new idea from a contemporary, and on and on.”
You don’t have to listen to more than one or two episodes to realize that Ethan genuinely enjoys talking to other librarians. In each episode, he interviews other librarians. Ethan’s demeanor puts his guests at ease, resulting in conversations instead of traditional interviews, which is enjoyable for listeners because they can easily relate to the participants. The conversations are much like the ones we all have with colleagues when we get together at meetings and conferences.
Obviously, Checked In is of special interest to Missouri school librarians (two episodes in the first season were MASL-specific), which is reflected in the fact that 75 percent of listeners are from Missouri. However, the other episodes address topics of interest to all school librarians regardless of their location, which accounts for the rest of the listeners, who are spread out over twenty-five other states.
Season two of Checked In will begin in early September. Ethan is busy planning episodes, which will address topics such as readers’ award programs, book challenges, and a deeper dive into diversity issues. He is also working on a Checked In website. He explains, “It’s going to be a catch-all for each season of episodes if people want to listen on a website, and we are also going to put together a mini-blog post for each episode. Some of the feedback I heard repeatedly from listeners last year was a place where we could list the different software, hardware, tools, programming, etc. that people mentioned on our show. That made a lot of sense to me so this year, we should have that available on our site!”
You can connect with Ethan via:
Both podcast series are available on Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Spotify, Google Play, and almost any other place you get your podcasts. I encourage you to download a couple of episodes and listen to them!
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.