Editor's Note: Recently I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Steve Thomas, who does the librarian interview podcast Circulating Ideas. This podcast has been going for several years now featuring conversations with innovative people and ideas that allow libraries to thrive in the 21st century. It now has an impressive list of conversations with interesting people that you can listen to directly on the website, or you can subscribe to the podcast here. Find my recent conversation with Steve Thomas all about TechSoup for Libraries here. Here is Steve in his own words saying a bit about how he started and about his library heroes and heroines.
How Circulating Ideas Started
In 2011, I was looking for a way to contribute to the library profession beyond my day job, and I was also starting to listen to a lot of podcasts. The podcasting landscape was not quite as fruitful as it is now, but even in the library world, some podcasts had sprung forth. The still-running T is for Training was a favorite, as was the now-defunct Adventures in Library Instruction, but none of them was providing what I was looking for. What I wanted was a peek into the work of librarians across the spectrum of the field, from school to public to academic, from library school professors to independent contractors to vendors. Circulating Ideas was born to fill that gap.
Over the years, across more than 150 episodes, I have spoken to a myriad of librarians and library supporters. It's been mostly online via Skype, but there has been the occasional in-person interview at a conference or over lunch with locals. These conversations have been fun and informative, not just because I learned more about librarianship, but because I got to learn about capturing and editing audio, with which I previously had next to no experience.
The podcast has given me the opportunity to interview professional heroes I never thought I'd meet, much less befriend. Dr. R. David Lankes has been a longtime supporter and a guest on multiple episodes. We have talked through his career from Syracuse to South Carolina, and his books, including The Atlas of New Librarianship and Expect More. The podcast even serialized the audiobook of Expect More. His belief in the power of the show to help transform librarians has kept me emotionally afloat during down times.
Library technologist Jason Griffey has also graced the show multiple times, talking about his LibraryBox project and giving his insight into the library technology world. In fact, his Kickstarter to launch LibraryBox was within months of my own Kickstarter campaign to fund my trip to the American Library Association conference in Chicago in 2013. While my campaign was ultimately funded, his was wildly successful and brought a fantastic wireless digital distribution tool to the world.
I went on one of my few road trips to visit the Chattanooga Public Library in 2014 to learn from their visionary director Corinne Hill. I got a tour of their fourth-floor makerspace and an inside look at their innovative teen programming. The staff there were welcoming and sharing, the best examples of the profession.
Finally, it's been my great pleasure to interview the candidates for American Library Association president almost every year that I have been doing the podcast. I have been able to provide transcripts on the same day as release for the past three years to assist with accessibility and searchability of the content. Each year, these interviews have helped me decide who to vote for, and I hope they've done the same for other ALA voters.
Thanks for reading, and keep circulating your ideas.
About the Author
Steve Thomas is a branch manager at Gwinnett County Public Library, which serves nearly a million residents in the suburbs of Atlanta and has been recognized as a "Top Workplace" by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2017 to 2019. He has worked in libraries since 1999 and received his MLIS from Clark Atlanta University in 2004. Since 2011, he has produced the Circulating Ideas podcast, where he facilitates conversations about the innovative people and ideas pushing libraries to thrive in the 21st century.