Welcome to The Skillset Podcast, 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. Hosted by R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke, The Skillset Podcast will feature conversations with librarians and other key players in the library and information world seeking to illuminate the complex issues facing libraries and other institutions in these unprecedented times.

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. 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.

New episodes will post on Fridays, and will be featured in Publishers Weekly's Preview for Librarians e-newsletter. Listen and subscribe on iTunes or Spotify and find it on your favorite Podcast platform. Can't find it on your platform of choice? Let us know!

Current Episode

The Skillset Podcast #11: Corinne Hill on the Secret to the Chattanooga Public Library's Success

In the last interview of the first season of The Skillset Podcast Corinne Hill, Executive Director at The Chattanooga (TN) Public Library explains how moving the community to center of everything helped transform Chattanooga into into one of the best public libraries in the world. Hill talks about the need for bringing on good people—and even the value in seeing great employees move on.

Previous Episodes

The Skillset Podcast #10: Jason Broughton on the Importance of Engaging the Unengaged

There aren’t too many librarians who get into the business in order to sue the federal government. And to be fair, Jason Broughton, the state librarian of Vermont, didn’t want to join this club. But as the head of the census for the state of Vermont, he wanted to make sure everyone in the state was counted. In this episode, Broughton discusses the importance of engaging all parts of the community, especially those who distrust government.

The Skillset Podcast #9: Ilona Kisch on Public Library 2030

It’s largely accepted as a truism that libraries connect and work together—interlibrary loan, consortia, union catalogs. However, working together and connecting is not a simple task. Add in different histories, cultures, languages, political systems and you begin to get a sense of what connecting libraries across Europe is like. This is the challenge this week’s guest, Ilona Kisch, has taken on with Public Libraries 2030, a nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of libraries to support “a democratic, socially engaged, and digitally inclusive” Europe. We caught up with Ilona Kisch, who stressed the importance of building networks of people and ideas over institutions and agencies.

The Skillset Podcast #8: Kelvin Watson on his Commitment to Service

Kelvin Watson became the Broward County, Florida library director on February 26th, 2017 after serving as the chief operating officer and senior vice president for the Queens Public Library in New York city, one of the nations most diverse library systems, serving 2.3 million people. In this episode, he walks us through his journey from infantryman to vendor to librarian, often as the only black man in the room. Speaking with frankness and clarity, Watson shares how his experiences have shaped his commitment to service, including his strong dedication to serving veterans, and the often unsupportive members of a community.

The Skillset Podcast #7: Clayton Copeland on the Importance of Accessibility

In this episode Clayton Copeland, a professor at the iSchool at the University of South Carolina and the director of the Laboratory for Leadership in Equity and Diversity, talks about how the very idea of disability is a social construct, and how the pandemic has shown in the most authentic way the struggles people with disabilities face every day—no access to restaurants and businesses, struggling with technology interfaces that change or were never intended for the current use, and feeling disconnected from communities. For Copeland, it all starts with empathy.

The Skillset Podcast #6: Melanie Townsend Diggs Reflects on the 2015 Uprising in Baltimore

On April 27, 2015, Melanie Townsend Diggs was heading up the Pennsylvania Branch of the Enoch Pratt libraries in Baltimore when she found herself at the epicenter of the uprising caused by the death of Freddy Gray in police custody. In this interview she talks about keeping the library open in the midst of police confrontation and the burning of stores. And she talks about the next day when her team’s commitment to the community became clear.

The Skillset Podcast #5: Sue Kowalski, School Librarian at Pine Grove Middle School

Sue Kowalski knows a lot about connecting to her students. Years before the pandemic Sue’s library was closed for a building renovation, and her students scattered across her district—so she bought a used RV and drove from school to school keeping the students connected. The pandemic, however, has presented a larger challenge still. In this episode, Sue opens up about not only connecting students, but needing that connection herself.

The Skillset Podcast #4: Academic Libraries in the Wake of Covid-19 with Clemson University’s Christopher Cox

Host David Lankes catches up with Christopher Cox, Dean of Libraries at Clemson University, to talk about the lessons Clemson—and academic libraries more broadly—are learning in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Skillset Podcast #3: Politics and Libraries with EveryLibrary's John Chrastka

With the election days away, this is the perfect time to remember that public libraries exist in a political as well as a civic space. In this episode, hosts David Lankes and Nicole Cooke talk to John Chrastka, founder and Executive Director of EveryLibrary, the country’s only political action committee for libraries, who points out that for 364 days of the year librarians are the lovely people who help us. But on election day, they are candidates who must stand up for themselves and their communities.

The Skillset Podcast #2: Angela Craig, Director of the Charleston County (SC) Public Library

In this week's episode, hosts Nicole Cooke & David Lankes talk with Angela Craig, director of the Charleston County Public Library in South Carolina. Craig talks about what it’s like to run a library…one week at a time and shares a number of fantastic ideas and experiences, including her take the library as a platform, how the physical and digital elements of the library have to work together, and how the library platform has to connect the very local to the broad community.

The Skillset Podcast #1: Rethinking Community Engagement, with Tamara King

Hosts Nicole Cooke & David Lankes talk with Tamara King, director of community relations at the Richland (SC) Public Library about the changing nature of community engagement in a time of pandemic, Black Lives Matter, & economic recession. Learn how the Richland Public Library’s “Let’s Talk” program has brought county residents together to have hard, serious conversations about race. And why it's important for libraries to support community efforts that are based in library values.

The Skillset Podcast with R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke: An Introduction

In this short explainer, co-host R. David Lankes talks about the genesis of The Skillset Podcast, what the podcast seeks to add to the conversation around the future of libraries, and why the current crises transforming libraries is also an opportunity.