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I get asked a lot about how I stay caught up with what’s going on with the world.  It takes a lot of time, maybe three hours a day, 90% of which is on my own time.  I have a six-pronged approach:

  1. 200 Twitter feeds (increasing)
  2. 60 blog & other RSS feeds (cut down from 400+)
  3. 20 email newsletters and listservs (ever-decreasing)
  4. 10 “old school” periodicals online (also down)
  5. 10 open access journals (increasing slowly)
  6. and 31 podcasts (increasing quickly)

Yes, I am insane.  And no, I do not suggest this many different sources for normal people wanting to stay current on technology and library stuff.  Kate Sheehan wrote a really good post today on the ALA TechSource blog, about the high stress of staying current: “Keeping Up with Keeping Up.”

About those podcasts… About two years ago I got my job at San Jose Public Library, adding a 90-120 minute commute in each direction.  As such, I started looking for good ways to use that commute time.  I started listening to some fun podcasts (NPR shows & whatnot) at home on my computer.  Then I got an Android HTC Eris smartphone, which has Google Listen on it–which automatically downloads all of the new podcasts for my subscriptions right onto my phone, which I plug into my Prius via the MP3 port, and listen away as I drive!  It’s the best.  Not only because it’s super-easy & requires no intermediary step, but because I learn a lot this way.  It’s a better use of my time than listening to NPR news and radio station music that I am only vaguely interested in.

Below is my list of audio podcast subscriptions.  Some of these come in video variations, and there are other video-only “podcasts” that I still subscribe to in Google Reader (like This Week in Libraries).  But podcasts are now my #2 method of keeping up, right after Twitter.

Any podcast with a * after it is from the TWIT network (a 24/7 all-online television and radio network with a ton of other shows that is run out of Petaluma, CA by the always-awesome Leo Laporte–Leo, hire me!), and any podcast with a # after it is from the This Week In network, a TWIT clone of good quality.

Technology Podcasts

  1. Technology Today
  2. FutureTense
  3. MacBreak Weekly *
  4. NPR: Technology Podcast
  5. Net@Night *
  6. Nodalities
  7. The Tech Guy *
  8. Tech News Today *
  9. This Week in Cloud Computing #
  10. This Week in Google *
  11. This Week in Mobile #
  12. This Week in Social Media #
  13. This Week in Tech *
  14. Windows Weekly *
  15. Wired’s Gadget Lab

Library Podcasts

  1. Adventures in Library Instruction
  3. The Library 2.0 Gang
  4. T is for Training

Web Design and Usability Podcasts

  1. User Experience Podcast
  2. User Interface Engineering: Brain Sparks
  3. WebAxe

Music Podcasts

  1. Idyllic Music Podcast
  2. Magnatune Electronica
  3. Magnatune Hard Electronica
  4. Magnatune Space Music
  5. NPR: All Songs Considered

Other Random “Sarah Interests” Podcasts She Listens to When She’s Tired of Learning in the Car

  1. KQED’s Forum
  2. NPR: Fresh Air
  3. This American Life
  4. VegCast

So why these podcasts and not others?  They have the three winning factors:

  1. Good, quality content of interest to me
  2. Quality audio content
  3. Good production quality (show-pacing, musical interludes, regular show segments, interesting guests, etc.)

I’ve probably tried out two dozen other podcasts, and unsubscribed because they ended (Boagworld, AdaptivePath), the content was uninteresting, the audio quality was so bad and uneven that my head hurt from listening, or the show production quality was laughable.  There was a show that overall had good content called AndroidGuys, but the show had seriously uneven volume levels and sometimes wasted 15 minutes at the start of the show with stupid unrelated topics, har-har-har riffing, and general idiocy.  After blasting my eardrums out three times in a row for hour long shows with 15 minutes of hidden awesome content, I just gave up.  I was sad too–they have a good blog.  Another show, The Hopkinson Report (from Wired‘s marketing guy), has good content but he speaks sooooo fast that I cannot both absorb what he is saying and concentrate on the semis cutting me off in 800-N rush hour traffic.

So let that be a lesson to future podcasters: you need good audio and content both!  It’s not all about a cute name, or getting first-time subscribers.  You have to keep them too.

If you have podcasts you like on any library/tech/web/education-related topic others might be interested, list them in the comments!  We’d love to see what you like, too!  Maybe I’ll find another half dozen to add to my ever-growing list!

“Staying Current Sarah-Style: Podcast Recommendations”

  1. Tweets that mention Staying Current Sarah-Style: Podcast Recommendations | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton-Jan -- Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bobbi Newman, Sarah Houghton-Jan and CMRLS Ref Center, Crystal Hammon, ABC. Crystal Hammon, ABC said: RT @TheLiB: New post on Librarian in Black: "Staying Current Sarah-Style: Podcast Recommendations" – [...]

  2. Peggy Says:

    Madam – you are crazy… or I might be saying that because you put me to shame with your diligence in keeping up.

    However, it is because of your mad skills that I have RSS’ed your blog, and often share your great snippets with my colleagues, making me look good and knowledgable.

  3. micah vandegrift Says:

    I have been really enjoying the NYTimes Tech Talk podcast. They are nice, quick, top-of-the-pile topic discussions, and the hosts and guests are fun and interesting. Also, since I am a longtime pop culture studies aca-fan I have been trying to keep up with Slate’s Culture Gab Fest.

    Thanks for this post. I am moving to NYC next week and will actually have a commute that I hope to enjoy with a good book or two, some new music, and now some great podcasts to help me keep current!

  4. tamarack Says:

    how on earth is spark not on this list?!!
    seriously though, thank you for the extra links to podcasts.

  5. Rachel Marsh Says:

    Thanks so much for the podcast tips! I’m looking into buying a new car at the moment and an MP3 port is TOP of my list. At the moment I only have a CD player/radio which means that my daily commute is spent listening to cheesy music when it could be vital time spent catching up. Every minute helps!

  6. Librarian Personal Learning Networks…08.04.10 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog Says:

    [...] class asked me how I keep up with the profession, I thought the following  excerpt from the “Librarian in Black“, a cutting-edge 21st century librarian and how she attempts to “stay current” [...]

  7. Ginger Williams Says:

    Thanks for sharing these! I am lucky to only have a 5 minute commute in my Prius, but maybe I can find some other time to sneak in some podcasts.

  8. Kerry Says:

    I second tamarack’s comment – Spark ( is awesome!

  9. Michelle Says:

    Thanks for the links and sharing your thoughts on keeping up. I know that I spend at least a couple of hours each day going through blogs and podcasts primarily but other resources too and sometimes it can be overwhelming. On several occasions, I’ll find something really striking and send it to someone only to find when I get to my email that they’ve sent me the same thing from a different blog post. I’ve thought about maybe organizing a weekly lunch day with some folks in the library and use the time as a forum for us to discuss interesting things we’ve been reading and new ideas – very casual but perhaps a way to share information so we all don’t have to read the exact same posts but can still get the needed info. I really enjoy your posts and often share them with others so keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Anne Peoples Says:

    Digital campus is by far my favourite podcast.

    it is billed as

    A biweekly discussion of how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums.

    and it does what it says on the tin, except for one thing. It is not exactly biweekly and it disappears pretty well completely during the university vacations. Nevertheless it is informative, educational and engaging and I learn something with every episode.

  11. Emily Says:

    Wow… if only I had the patience/time/dedication/diligence to keep up with all of that! Let me thank you on behalf of all your readers, you make it easy for us to keep on top of the library world. :-)

  12. Lori Reed Says:

    How I stay caught up? Follow The Lib :D

  13. Cari Says:

    It’s really really hard for me to keep up with my 100 or so blogs… Thank goodness we have you to share what you learn with us.

    I do a library podcast, The ABC Book Reviews ( We don’t have a lot of guests or musical interludes, but they’re short and interesting, and good audio quality. We talk about various book-related things, and it’s not completely specific to our library, so listeners from around the world may be interested. Give it a shot :-) We usually update about once a month.

  14. Jason Puckett Says:

    Thanks for the shout-out for Adventures in Library Instruction, Sarah! We love doing the show and we’re psyched that so many people seem to be enjoying it.

    I second Anne’s recommendation of Digital Campus!

  15. Library and Tech Podcasts « klugdune Says:

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