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Hosts of new Howard library podcast aim to inform, with fun

Dennis Wood (left) and Victoria Goodman (right) are the hosts of a new podcast launched by the Howard County Library System in early September. HiJinx, as the audio series is called, aims to inform and entertain listeners while promoting the library system's resources.
Dennis Wood (left) and Victoria Goodman (right) are the hosts of a new podcast launched by the Howard County Library System in early September. HiJinx, as the audio series is called, aims to inform and entertain listeners while promoting the library system's resources. (Geoffrey Baker / Howard County Library System)

Decibel by decibel, Howard County's homegrown podcasting scene is increasing in volume.

There's the children's bedtime story podcast from an author and mother of two in Columbia; an upcoming entrepreneurship and business podcast from the Howard County Economic Development Authority; and a podcast of recorded sermons from an Ellicott City church.

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Now the Howard County Library System is contributing to the mix with HiJinx, a monthly podcast hosted by staff members Victoria Goodman and Dennis Wood and featuring interviews with visiting authors and local figures that relate to a theme.

"There is so much that happens in this library system, so many events, so many special appearances by authors, such a community connection, that I think it's wonderful to be able to promote that," said Goodman, a publicity specialist at the library system. "But at the same time we can say, here's a little more and enhance our customers' experiences even further."

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Columbia resident Rhea Pechter, 31, is among a growing number of people, from amateurs to broadcast professionals, trying their hand at podcasting. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of podcasts available for download on the online hosting service Libsyn grew from approximately 12,000 in 2012 to 22,000 in 2014. "The cool thing about podcasting is that it's a decentralized space," Pechter said. "You can be a small player and find an audience."

In the first episode, titled "Farm to Table - Can You Dig It?," Goodman and Wood interview a local farmer and two farm-to-table restaurant owners, as well as Forrest Pritchard, a best-selling author and organic farmer. Pritchard will be participating in a "Meet the Author" event at the Miller Branch Library on Oct. 1.

"I have never heard a person talk so much about farming and dirt and be so happy about it and so excited about it than Forrest Pritchard," said Wood, who specializes in multimedia production. "He loves what he does, absolutely loves it, and it came through."

The theme of the first episode, released Sept. 7, ties into this month's 10th annual Farm City celebration, a two-week festival that encourages Howard County's urban residents to connect with the county's agricultural community.

"We want to educate the entire community not only about what we do here at the library, but also about what other people do," Wood said.

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Over the course of four afternoons in May at Washington Glass Studio in Mt. Rainier, more than two dozen Laurel residents had the chance to make their artistic mark on the new Laurel Branch library building, expected to open this fall. Glass tiles created by the amateur artists, along with larger squares created by the professional artists at the studio, will panel a sculpture commissioned by Prince George's Arts and Humanities Council for the front of the new library building's entrance.

Howard's library system joins a host of other libraries from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to San Diego capitalizing on what has been called the "golden era of podcasting," and engaging readers and visitors through the newly popular audio format.

The term podcast, which some say originated in 2004, refers to a series of digital audio files that can be downloaded or streamed to a computer, smartphone or other listening device.

In 2013, 12 percent of Americans age 12 and older said they had listened to a podcast in the previous month. By 2016, that number had jumped to 21 percent, according to Edison Research.

The New York Public Library System's podcast has featured interviews with high-profile artists, musicians and authors, including Jay-Z, John Waters and Ta-Nehisi Coates. It has nearly 3,000 followers on the Internet audio platform SoundCloud.

Fireside Chat and book signing with sports legend Cal Ripken, Jr. The former shortstop and third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles introduces "The Closer," the sixth book in the Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars series to a capacity crowd. Registration for this event filled in less than six minutes.

Podcasting seemed like a natural next step for Howard County's library system, Goodman said, since it prioritizes innovation in using technology to reach its customers. At hclibrary.org residents can access everything from e-books and online classes to music and movies.

Also, the talent necessary for producing a podcast was readily available among the library's staff.

While in her previous position as the chief public information officer for Howard County Executive Jim Robey, Goodman hosted a podcast in which she interviewed her boss about the latest local happenings and what Robey had been up to during the previous week.

Wood has done voice over work and teaches a class on it at the Savage Branch library. He has an extensive background in audio production as well.

"Dennis has the voice, can't you tell?" Goodman said.

The two hosts fleshed out the podcast over a period of three or four months, keeping in mind that they wanted the end product to be both informative and fun.

"People might be listening to this during their commute to Baltimore or D.C.," Wood said, "so we don't want them to be falling asleep."

He and Goodman wrote the script together, but also ad-libbed a good portion of the show. They share a cubicle wall in their office as well as a sense of humor, Goodman said.

Hence the name HiJinx, which combines the playful idea behind the traditional game of jinx with the library system's friendly new "Hi" logo.

"We want to bring the fun out of it, even when the subject might not be that fun," Wood said.

Both hosts hope that their podcast will promote interest in and use of the library's events and resources, both at its branches and on its website.

"But if it's just the podcast they listen to..." Goodman said.

"I'll take it," Wood said, finishing the sentence.

To listen to Wood and Goodman on HiJinx, go to hclibrary.org/hijinx.

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