We're delighted to announce the launch today of The Skillset Podcast, a new free weekly podcast hosted by University of South Carolina professors R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke.

The podcast is a joint effort from the University of South Carolina School of Information Science, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair, and the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, and Publishers Weekly.

Each week The Skillset Podcast will feature conversations with librarians and other key players in the information world seeking to illuminate the complex issues facing libraries and other institutions in these unprecedented times. New episodes will post on Fridays and will be featured in Publishers Weekly's Preview for Librarians e-newsletter

“This podcast began with a problem,” says podcast co-host R. David Lankes. “Here at the University of South Carolina School of Information Science we had just added a course on Community Engagement and Service to the core of our library science degree. And suddenly, in 2020, with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and a long overdue racial and social justice awakening, everything we thought we knew about the subject went out the window. These massive disruptions have shaken the library world to its core. Libraries have long rested on their virtue, and their connection to the community. And suddenly, libraries were separated from their communities as their physical buildings were forced to close. And as a profession, librarians are finally committing to addressing their own issues, including the legacy of systemic racism, vocational awe, and the safety and well-being of our workers.”

Season One of The Skillset Podcast will focus on libraries in the wake of protests and the pandemic, and will feature conversations with an array of library directors, activists, and educators exploring how libraries are changing to meet the needs of their communities amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement for social and racial justice. And each season will be aligned with the academic semester, giving listeners an opportunity to explore the issues and themes being addressed by library science students today.

Last month, Lankes and Cooke also joined Publishers Weekly senior writer Andrew Albanese for the first webinar in a new, free series, Live From the Library Lounge, for a discussion that focused on how libraries are changing in these unprecedented times

"This podcast is an amazing opportunity for us to continue building those bridges between theory and practice," says co-host Nicole A. Cooke. "It is an opportunity for us to connect with library professionals who are actually 'walking the walk' and using their expertise to educate our students about the true meaning of community literacy, and to expose new ideas and practices to a wider audience."

A short introductory episode is now available on the Publishers Weekly web site, along with Episode One of The Skillset Podcast, which features a discussion with Tamara King, Head of Community Engagement at the Richland (SC) Public Library. In the coming weeks, the podcast will be available via all the major podcast platforms, but it's available today exclusively for Publishers Weekly readers:

HTML5 Audio Player

"I can’t think of anyone better to start us off than Tamara King," says Lankes. "In this interview she covers the 'Let’s Talk' program that has attracted hundreds of county residents to have hard, serious conversations about race. She talks about the importance of not waffling in supporting community efforts that are right and based in the values of the library. And she also talks about the importance of getting the whole library staff on the same page, and how being told “no” can be an opportunity to innovate."

About the Hosts

R. David Lankes is director of the University of South Carolina's School of Information Science and the author of The Atlas of New Librarianship (MIT Press); and The New Librarianship Field Guide (MIT Press). A passionate advocate for libraries and their essential role in today's society, Lankes was awarded the American Library Association's Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship in 2016. He has been a visiting fellow at the National Library of Canada, the Harvard School of Education, and was the first fellow of ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy.

Nicole A. Cooke is the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina. Her research and teaching interests include human information behavior, critical cultural information studies, and diversity and social justice in librarianship. She was awarded ALA's Equality award in 2016, and she was the 2019 ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award recipient. She has edited and authored several books, including Information Services to Diverse Populations (ABC-CLIO, 2016) and Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-truth Era (ALA Editions, 2018).