15 Best Podcasts for New Listeners

Apparently Dani and I don’t keep it a secret that we love podcasts, because people are always asking us what to listen to. This is, of course, almost an impossible question since there are SO many amazing podcasts and because people have such different tastes. On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say that a canon has developed, and that these 15 best podcasts will be suitable to almost all new listeners. Gateway podcasts, perhaps? Start here, and you’ll soon find yourself exploring dozens of genres and subgenres of podcasts!

In no particular order, here is the list:

  1. This American Life


  3. Invisiblia

  4. Radiolab

  5. The Moth

  6. Reply All

  7. Snap Judgment

  8. All Songs Considered

  9. Story Corps

  10. New York Fiction Podcast

  11. WITS (no longer recording, so only archive)

  12. Pod F. Tompkast

  13. WTF with Marc Maron Podcast

  14. 99% Invisible

  15. Planet Money

Annnnddd because we're librarians and obviously next level nerds, here's a second list of personal favorites:

  1. Call Your Girlfriend“A podcast for long distance besties everywhere.” Dani’s LDBFF in Japan recommended this, so now we’re using the podcast like a long-distance, two-person book club that meets on Google Hangouts. Unapologetically feminist, unapologetically awesome. ALSO: The Notorious RBG.

  2. Reply AllThis “show about the internet” will make you love the internet even more. Stories about people and technology and deep things and funny things.

  3. Death, Sex, and Money "About the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation." Because we like big questions and we're not that polite.

  4. Product Hunt "Product Hunt Radio is a podcast for those that love to geek out about products. Each week, makers, investors, and others in the startup community join us to chat about products and share their story."

  5. Mystery ShowFinally, Starlee Kine, of distinctive voice and repeat appearance on This American Life, brings us a podcast all her own.

  6. America’s Test Kitchen RadioThe same people who bring those bomb-proof ATK recipes to our Saturday mornings via PBS talk about food and cooking via radio. Favorite recurring guests: Stephen Meuse, wine expert, and Adam Gopnik, food writer.

  7. Note to Self "Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age."

  8. Money for the rest of us

  9. The Tim Ferriss Show

  10. The Dead Authors Podcast

We hope this helps you fall in love with podcasts--may you road trips be ever better! May you cease to procrastinate washing the dishes! May you run farther than ever before! May you look forward to your daily commute!

P.S. Feeling overwhelmed? Check out Pocket Casts. It's like feedly for your ears, and it's pretty. You can listen to your podcast subscriptions in a web browser on mobile app with all the syncing. Plus a kazillion other features (like speeding up the audio).

Summer Eating, Summer Reading

What we're eating this summer: the hugest, fattest, juciest, ripest blackberries. A handful of blackberriesWhat we're reading this summer:

Dani's reading Euphoria, by Lily King.

I'm obsessed. I can not stop reading this book. It reminds me a lot of State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, one of my favorite books of all time. Maybe this reveals what my favorite type of novel is? The subject headings for State of Wonder crack me up.

Scientists -- Fiction.

Medicine -- Research -- Fiction.

Jungles -- Amazon River Region -- Fiction.


Jess is reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers.

It's my second time reading it, and it's the perfect book for summer because everything is bright and thick and hot.

Honestly, though, we're the kind of people who read two or three or nine or twelve books at a time. It's a summer of bounty. The fattest, most luscious blackberries you've ever tasted, and a staggeringly ambitious stack of books.

Summer Book Stack


Crowd sourced information service and "Googling" our hive

Jess and I share an office - what, are you surprised? - with the two amazing graduate assistants that work in our department. It's a highly collaborative atmosphere, which we all find stimulating and supportive. The four of us work on many of the same projects and simply talking across the room to a teammate cuts down enormously on email. Our library provides virtual reference using a chat service, and when someone is doing online reference our answers to patron questions are often crowd-sourced from whoever is in the room at the time. "Hey, what's the name of that one e-resource we have for test prep?" (I can never remember the name of that thing.) We rely on each other to remember the details and locations of things. "When is that meeting? Where did you get those shoes? (Our library ladies love cute flats.) In which of 9 gazillion folders on the shared drive is that one document about that one thing?" We Google our hive's collective memories constantly. It turns out there may be a generalizable explanation for our reliance on constant collaboration. We're not weird. Everybody is weird! Slate published this excerpt from Clive Thompson's book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. In it, Thompson describes how we use computers, the Internet, apps, and our phones as extensions of our memory. (I first saw this article mentioned by @librarianmouse, here. She and her colleagues like to use crowd sourced information to answer reference questions, too!) It's a new version of a concept called transactive memory, in which our society has long relied on the shared memories of the people close to us so that we don't have to remember everything ourselves.

Our team uses a variety of tools to keep track of our projects, ideas, and documents. Between Jess and me, any particular thing I want to recall may be stored in the network drive, work email, our personal email correspondence, Google Docs, Trello, Workflowy, Evernote, Zotero, Pinterest, Padlet, or an actual, physical notebook. Even though we don't often remember the exact details of the thing we're trying to retrieve, we almost always know where it is. Research cited in Thompson's article confirms this proclivity:

We are, however, confident of where in the machine we can refind it. When Sparrow asked the students simply to recall whether a fact had been saved or erased, they were better at recalling the instances where a fact had been stored in a folder...Another experiment found that subjects were really good at remembering the specific folder names containing the right factoid, even though the folders had extremely unremarkable names.

This phenomenon pops up in our office-wide transactive memory system all the time. "Remember when we found that article that talked about self-paced student learning? Is it in that Google Doc of sources?"

"No, it's attached to a Trello card on the team board."

"Sweet, thanks."

So we work in a noisy office. So what?

Here's the really important part. The reason we need to be aware of the amazing ways our society is using devices to expand our transactive memory sources. Jess and I are primarily information literacy librarians. We teach research and instruction classes, help students at the reference desk, and are developing a new curriculum for our library to provide more broadly applicable information literacy instruction to undergraduates. The students we teach and interact with every day have a different relationship with information than previous generations. They are "digital natives," and they are used to accessing all the information in the world using online sources and search interfaces, and saving everything they need in an electronic location. We need to understand what they know about finding and using information so that we can use our instruction to fill in the gaps in the skill set they already possess for interacting with information sources. This is how Thompson describes one of those gaps:

Transactive memory works best when you have a sense of how your partners' minds work—where they're strong, where they're weak, where their biases lie. I can judge that for people close to me. But it's harder with digital tools, particularly search engines. They’re for-profit firms that guard their algorithms like crown jewels. And this makes them different from previous forms of transactive machine memory. A public library—or your notebook or sheaf of papers—keeps no intentional secrets about its mechanisms. A search engine keeps many. We need to develop literacy in these tools the way we teach kids how to spell and write; we need to be skeptical about search firms’ claims of being “impartial” referees of information.

This is the big idea behind the way we characterize information literacy. Students definitely need help with searching for and finding information. But for the most part, they will figure out on their own how to get their hands on the information they need. What they often won't figure out on their own, however, is how to evaluate it. Information skepticism isn't automatically built in to their reliance on the Internet for transactive memory. If we can introduce them to the limitations and biases of search engines and some online sources, and more importantly, provide them with the skills to overcome that, we will have given students a valuable tool to make their relationship with their machines much more useful.

Our very own...



We're delighted to announce that we are friends with a celebrity! (Sort of!) And we are delighted to announce it with creepily similar tweets! One of our co-workers was named Best Local Poet by The Pitch, Kansas City's alternative art, culture, and entertainment news outlet. Barbara Varanka is a talented gal, and we're very proud of her creative work.

Like Caravaggio’s Judith, you are the bright gash and the sword, the wine and fig divided.

Barbara Varanka, 2011

On another note, we sometimes think of Babs as our secret intelligence agent. Before she came to work at the library, Barbara taught English composition to college students. She provides valuable insight about what's important to the instructors we work with, what they already know (or don't) about library research themselves, and how they want their students to use what they learn from the library. We're planning to feature guest posts from Barbara about transitioning from one side of the information literacy equation to the other. Do you have questions you've always wanted to ask the instructors you work with? Burning questions about why they do the things they do, how their brains work? Lay 'em on us on the comments!

I like large parties

Office Mates

Something you should know about Dani: she loves to throw parties. She's also really good at it... like real good. Her birthday party this year was a Gatsby-themed hit, complete with Martinis, silver streamer curtains, a balloon chandelier, and a kick ass art deco door decal made by Dani's husband, Nick.

And as Jordan says in Chapter 3, " I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."

Listening to: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack (duh!)