The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the library profession. Over the last year, librarians and library and information school (LIS) educators and students have been forced into new ways of working, learning, and being. And the uncertainties of the pandemic have been compounded by a racial and social justice awakening, which has shined a long overdue light on existing societal inequities, and which requires meaningful change.

In libraries, for example, it was often the Black, Brown, and less affluent staff members who were required to report to work during the pandemic, sometimes lacking the proper personal protective equipment or other suitable safety protocols. Not only did these staff members disproportionately face the prospect of getting sick or losing their jobs, they often dealt with hostile patrons, and indifferent administrators and public officials.

In library schools, LIS students and faculty found themselves teaching and learning in new ways, often with inconsistent technology and resources, and frequently under the assumption that everyone had the necessary equipment and infrastructure to work and learn from home. A year later, few of these issues have been met appropriately or adequately addressed by the profession.

And there are countless stories and anecdotes over the last year in which librarians and LIS professionals were encouraged to practice "self-care" in an effort to cope with challenging circumstances: do yoga, take a bubble bath, take a nap, talk to friends. While those individual practices may help ease one's personal stress, such advice does nothing to address the systemic barriers and inequities in the workplace that are causing such stress in the first place, and unfairly shifts the burden to individuals who are suffering.

To this end, season two of The Skillset Podcast is dedicated to the topic of "collective care." As opposed to self-care, collective care focuses on the need to care for each other in addition to the one's self. Throughout this season, guests will tell us how collective care shows up in the work that they do in their own libraries and organizations.

Hosted by R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke,The Skillset Podcast features weekly 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. The podcast is a joint effort from the University of South Carolina School of Information Science, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair, the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

The podcast is free to listen to and download. New episodes will post on Mondays and will be featured in Publishers Weekly's Preview for Librarians e-newsletter on Fridays.

The full first season of The Skillset Podcast, which centered on the work of libraries in the wake of the pandemic and the nationwide protests for social and racial justice, is archived and freely available for download.

Current Episode

The Skillset Podcast S2 E7: Exploring Morale in the Workplace with Kaetrena Kendrick

Nicole A. Cooke talks with Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Dean of the Ida Jane Dacus Library and Louise Pettus Archives & Special Collections at Winthrop University, where her research interests include professionalism, ethics, racial and ethnic diversity in the LIS field, and the role of communities of practice in practical academic librarianship. In 2019, she was named ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year for her research into the phenomenon of low morale, and taking a deeper dive into the subject, Kendrick has now documented behavior and cultures that specifically enable the low morale experiences of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians.

Season Two: Previous Episodes

The Skillset Podcast S2 E6: People-Centered Service with David Seleb

Nicole A. Cooke talks with Oak Park Public Library (Illinois) Executive Director David Seleb, a lifelong Chicago area resident who has pursued what he calls "people-centered" library services to the residents of his community. In this wide-ranging discussion Seleb talks about working to serve the most vulnerable of the community, how to identify and eliminate barriers to service, how to discern and advance community objectives, and how he his leadership has benefited from his personal and professional engagement with the Harwood Institute.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E5: Reflection and Mindfulness with Amanda Leftwich

Nicole A. Cooke talks with Amanda Leftwich, Student Success Librarian at Montgomery County Community College (PA). Leftwich's work focuses on utilizing reflective practice and mindfulness to help navigate microaggressions, prevent burnout, and to find community. She is the founder of the “Mindful in LIS” virtual communities on Instagram and Twitter and she is also co-creator ofLibVoices a podcast that shares stories of librarians of color.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E4: The Power of Diversity and Equity with Jennie Marie Durán

Jennie Marie Durán is the Assistant Vice Chancellor and System-wide Affirmative Action Officer for the State University of New York (SUNY). Durán has significant experience in affirmative action, equal employment opportunity, Americans with Disabilities Act, diversity management, as well as policy and law. The crux of her work has been diversity and equity compliance guidance to campuses in Higher Education, and as a librarian, Durán firmly believes in the power of information and storytelling.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E3: Mental Health Awareness with Abby Phillips

Dr. Abigail Phillips is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where her research interests include cyberbullying, youth, social media, empathy, librarianship, libraries, making, critical librarianship, neurodiversity, and mental health advocacy. She is a member of the #LISMentalHealth team. The #LISMentalHealth initiative aims to raise awareness of mental health among library and archives workers through online discussions, blog posts, resource-sharing, and the “Reserve and Renew Zine” series.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E2: Health and Wellness with Noah Lenstra

Dr. Noah Lenstra is an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he brings a community engagement approach to the study and teaching of libraries. Notably, Noah founded the Let’s Move in Libraries Initiative, which focuses on supporting healthy living in public libraries. The project was inspired by Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which focused on increasing Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) among Americans. Let’s Move in Libraries continues Obama's legacy by working to increase physical activity through libraries in the U.S., Canada, and other places in the world.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E1: Celebrating the Beauty of Black Literature with Forrest Evans

Nicole A. Cooke talks with Forrest Evans, reference librarian at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, a branch of the Fulton County Library System in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to African American history, culture, and literature. An experienced librarian and a published poet, Evans has been building a thriving community on social media with her “Favorite Librarian” accounts, where she highlights the beauty of Black literature.

The Skillset Podcast S2 E0: Introduction by R. David Lankes

In this short explainer, co-host R. David Lankes talks about what listeners can expect from Season Two of The Skillset Podcast, which will focus on collective care, community health and staff well-being as librarians continue to wrestle with the immediate threat from Covid-19, the work that needs to be done toward racial and social justice, and the longer term changes necessitated by these historic events.

The Skillset Podcast S2 Special Episode Part II: Libraries Lead in the New Normal with Mike Eisenberg, Part II.

In this second special episode of The Skillset Podcast, R. David Lankes and Mike Eisenberg continue their conversation on how libraries can lead in creating our post-pandemic new normal. In this followup, Mike and Dave discuss vaccines and how libraries can support the rollout, along with other interesting bits from the week’s library news.

The Skillset Podcast S2: Special Episode Part I: Libraries Lead in the New Normal with Mike Eisenberg

Season Two of The Skillset Podcast gets started with wide-ranging discussion between R. David Lankes and Mike Eisenberg, Professor and Dean Emeritus and the founding dean of the Information School at the University of Washington. The discussion is the first installment of a special periodic discussion within Season Two of the Skillset Podcast, dubbed Libraries Lead in the New Normal. These episodes will offer additional analysis and discussion of how libraries can take the lead as we begin to consider life after the pandemic.