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Introducing the Library Loudhailer

July 21st, 2020 By Seán McMahon
Introducing our podcast ‘The Library Loudhailer’. What we are doing, why we are doing it and where you can find our podcast.

The popularity of the podcast

Podcasts are a broadcast medium which has been expanding exponentially for a few years now (since the mid-1980s). Halfway through 2020 worldwide individual shows topped 1,000,000 podcasts. Reviewers estimate episodes within each of these podcasts are between 30,000,000 and 50,000,000 individual broadcasts. That’s a lot of listening.

The range of topics and themes in podcasts is extremely diverse with a genre or niche for nearly every type of potential listener. Some are so obscure that the only listener is the podcaster themselves. At the other end of the spectrum are the large media organisations and radio conglomerates with large subscription bases; just think: The New York Times podcast The Daily, or This American Life which is a public radio podcast.

Dog and gramaphone on snow. Dog is straining towards the gramaphone.
Ever popular, audio! Dog Chris, listening to the gramophone, Antarctica, ca 1911 by James Kinsey. Ref: PA1-f-067-099-2. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Library podcasts

Public institutions and GLAMR organisations have got on board using podcasts as a means of telling their stories, promoting their services, or monetising their content for the bottom line.

For all of this, libraries have been slow in the uptake of this relativity new medium as a way of connecting with their audiences and creating new ones. One of the most popular library podcasts is The New York Public Library’s The Librarian Is In, which has been broadcasting since 2015. They also produce a second podcast Library Talks which captures all public lectures hosted by the NYPL. The British Library and the Library of Congress are other institutions to run successful podcasts.

Closer to home Te Papa’s podcast series Ours profiled twenty objects from their collections in 2018. RNZ National runs many podcasts under their umbrella of public radio shows and interviews.

Auckland Libraries group all their audio stories under Ngā Pātaka Kōrero and this is a very vibrant and up-to-day collection of podcasts and library talks.

Maybe it is time the National Library of NZ hosted a podcast?

The Library Loudhailer — podcast pilot

In 2019 the National Library’s Business Innovation Group (BIG) started pursuing the idea of developing a podcast, one of the many project ideas for innovation as submitted to BIG through various Library forums.

A working group of four Library staff began investigating the possibility of a pan Library podcast as a pilot project. Over the course of a year, the group has been researching how to create a podcast, from finding staff to interview, selecting topics that might be of interest to our Library audience, and technically working out how this is all done?

This last question proved quick to answer: not easily. The art of sound engineering is a tricky process, the software finickety to use, and the quality of recording equipment paramount in making an acceptable recording. With much tenacity from our sound engineer, the group made steady progress in recording interviews and shaping the audio into manageable content.

Much experimentation has taken place in the production process. This knowledge will feed into the experience of the group when we produce our feasibility report for management on the long-term viability of the Library running a podcast. The Library Loudhailer is the result of this pilot work.

The Library Loudhailer National Libary of New Zealand Te Puna Mātaturanga o Aotearoa


The first podcast off the rank will be a conversation with Paul Diamond, one of the curators of the Pūkana exhibition (Te Ihi, Te Wehi, Te Wana – Moments in Māori performance) currently on show at the National Library in Wellington until the 30th of July 2020. We talk about developing the exhibition, what Paul learnt about the exhibition process and the joy of working in a team.

Among Paul’s whirlwind description of the exhibition, he elaborates on the intricacies and purpose of the traditional Māori carved karetao (wooden puppets), delves into the power of haka, looks at the photography of Māori school pupils by Ans Westra, and grapples with the explosion that is the te reo singing heavy metal band Alien Weaponry.

A gallery view of Pūkana showing various cases and framed images on the walls.
L to R: Karetao gifted by Alexander Turnbull to Dominion Museum Ref: ME003639. Karetao from Oldman Collection held by Te Papa Ref: OL000175. Photo by Mark Beatty

So where do we find this podcast?

From Wednesday the 22nd July 2020, ‘The Library Loudhailer’ will be available through the National Library’s website under the National Library Blogs landing page. It also has its own blog category Library Loudhailer.

Each podcast webpage has the link to the audio file, the audio transcript and show notes with photographs. You can also leave comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our first podcast, or any of the subsequent episodes to follow.

We are still in the pilot stage and are hoping to upload a new podcast on the Library website every four to six weeks for the remainder of this year. In time we hope to be able to deliver the podcast through third party websites like Soundcloud.

Thank you to Mary Hay, Jay Buzenberg and Aaron Wanoa for their commitment to this podcast project.

Have a listen

Have a listen to episode 1 of the Library Loudhailer.

Ep.1 Pūkana a curator’s tale

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