Starting Some New Habits: Podcasts

As we mentioned last week, we here at the Free For All don’t believe there is a bad time to start a good habit.  And there is no habit better than learning and expanding your mind.

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The Library offers a multitude of ways for you to learn and experience more, both ‘in house’, so to speak, as well as online.  Online platforms such as Hoopla, Overdrive, and apps like Libby offer you, our beloved patrons, ways to read, watch, listen and learn from our materials in the comfort of your own home, in the car, and while traveling far afield.

But there is a world full of knowledge, and we cannot hope to contain every single molecule of it.  So this year, we wanted to offer you some other ways to be educated and entertained for free.  We start today with podcasts.

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Podcasts function much like radio shows of the past.  Then tend to be serialized–some tell a continuous story across multiple episodes, while others feature the same format and/or cast, but change topic regularly, based on a theme.  They can be found on the internet, and listened to on the computer, or downloaded to an MP3 player to take with you on the go.  The word ‘podcast’ itself is a portmanteau word that combines ‘iPod’ (the device for which they were originally developed) and ‘broadcast’ (like the radio shows of yore).

Most podcasts are entirely free.  They succeed by monetizing–that is, selling ad space in their podcast, and usually offering listeners an incentive to check out their sponsors.  Anyone who is used to television commercials, YouTube or Netflix ads will be familiar with these ads, and, for the most part, they aren’t very obtrusive at all.

Anyone with internet access and some recording implement can make a podcast.  As a result, there is a very wide array of topics, themes, genres, and presenters from which to choose–a concept that is both exciting and a little intimidating for first time users.   So where to begin?  That’s where we, your friendly Public Service Library Staff come in.  We’re busy curating a list of podcasts that make us laugh, wonder, shiver, or inspire us to create, and we wanted to share those with you.  Below is our first selection of podcasts, along with links to access episodes.  Feel free to try them, and let us know what you think!

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Just a note: these podcasts are not run by, or in any way affiliated with the Peabody Library–or any library.  You don’t need a library account to listen to them, either.  They are freely available to all listeners on the internet.  These selections are, however, ones that staff members of the Peabody Library greatly enjoy.  For those of you with an iTunes account or similar smart phone app, you can also search for these podcasts and download them that way.  If you would like help with this process, just let us know!

And, by the way, if you have any suggestions for podcasts that you enjoy, be sure to let us know!  We’re always looking for recommendations ourselves.


Off Book: The Improvised Musical:

This podcast features hour-long episodes featuring hosts Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino, pianist Scott Passarella, as well as drummer Dana Wickens , who are joined by a special guest for each epsiode, including such comedy and musical luminaries as Rachel Bloom and Paul F. Tompkins.  Together, they create a Broadway-style musical on the spot.  The results are delightfully wacky and startlingly clever.  Take, for example, the entire spoof on the Law and Order franchise, entitled ‘Law and Order: Restaurant Unit’!  Click the box below for more information about this podcast and to check out new episodes.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical


Welcome to Night Vale:

Perhaps one of the most well-known podcasts out there is this series, created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  This twice-monthly podcast is presented in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.  This Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, but…weirder.   This franchise has bloomed into two full-length books, several scripts, and spin-off podcasts over the years.  So for listeners who want a fully-developed world to discover, look no further than the odd little town of Night Vale.  Click the box below to access episodes.


My Favorite Murder:

Anyone who was a fan of the NPR series Serial can attest to the allure of true crime stories, to the haunting nature of the unsolved, and the dark intrigue of exploring the darkest shades of history.  If such tales are for you, and especially if your humor runs to the black, then be sure to check out this podcast, hosted bystand-up comedian and television writer Karen Kilgariff and Cooking Channel writer and host Georgia Hardstark.  In each episode, each host selects a single murder, true crime story, or survivor story to recount and discuss, occasionally sharing additional “hometown murder” stories submitted by friends and fans.  Rather than dwelling on the gruesome or the visceral, both hosts strive to emphasize compassion for both the victims and perpetrators of the crimes they discuss, actively combatting the more problematic aspects of the true crime genre, such as misogyny, victimization, and dangerous stereotypes about sex workers and the mentally ill or struggling.  The result is a surprisingly funny, consistently interesting series that has been earning a wide and very, very loyal fan base.  Click the box below to find out more.

And stay tuned, beloved patrons, for more podcast selections from your favorite Public Service Staff members in the near future.  Happy Listening!

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