The Newsletter

Hi, listeners! After mulling it over for quite awhile – literally years! – I decided that the 10th anniversary of the podcast would be a great time to launch a Circulating Ideas Newsletter!

The podcast facilitates conversations with the innovative people and ideas inspiring libraries to grow and thrive in the 21st century, and the newsletter will be released in conjunction with new episodes of the show to provide more context and depth to the associated episode.

There is a “zero” issue posted right now with links to the podcast episodes that have been released so far in 2021, and the next issue will follow the upcoming Episode 200, which also marks the 10th anniversary of the podcast!

Subscribe to the (free!) newsletter today and keep circulating your ideas!

CircIdeas@5: Dolly Knight

The following was written as the afterword for the Recirculated ebook of transcripts by Dolly “The Artist Formerly Known as Moehrle” Knight, who has been a big supporter of the show for a long time. Listen to us on Withdrawn; someone has to, because Dolly herself won’t be listening.

I don’t listen to podcasts.

I’m not just being funny here: I’ve always struggled with listening to people talk. (I welcome your jokes.) I don’t listen to audiobooks or talk radio and your Terry Gross jokes are lost on me. Sometimes I get lost in my own thoughts, sometimes I get distracted by a shiny object, but either way the outcome is the same: I lose my place and get discouraged, then move on to something else. Sorry, world. Sorry, Steve.

When I first heard of Circulating Ideas, I nodded sagely and thought, that sounds good. There are podcasts for every conceivable subject, and a podcast made by a librarian, focused on library topics, seemed like the perfect way to combine the library scientists’ love of new trends and tech, with an exciting focus on the work real library professionals were doing. I even found myself, to my great surprise, actually listening to episodes; I consider Circulating Ideas a form of professional development, and usually listen at my desk.

One of my favorite things about Circulating Ideas is the laid back interview style. No one is ever put on the defensive; there’s a lot of pausing for laughter, and the conversation can meander from subject to subject organically, because unlike talk radio, Steve’s goal isn’t to play “gotcha” or have a debate with anyone. The interviews make you feel like you’re in a coffee shop with Steve and Cory Doctorow, and you’re not eavesdropping, you’re part of the discussion.

When the first Kickstarter came around, to get Steve some new equipment and to get me some stickers (I think that was what it was for), I was impressed by the love shown to Circulating Ideas. When librarians love something, they support it, and they definitely showed up for the first Kickstarter–it was nearly 150% funded by the time it ended.

As much as I might harangue Steve Thomas for my own enjoyment, Circulating Ideas is a spectacular project. Even with all the love for it, I don’t think we truly appreciate what he’s done here–he’s created a living breathing portrait of what this mysterious entity known as “librarianship” looks like in this era. Interviewees run the gamut from librarians working in youth services to consultants, managers, directors, and authors. They work in traditional libraries, they work in special libraries, or they don’t work in libraries at all; but everyone has their own perspective on the work they do and the transitions they’ve experienced.

When Steve told me he wanted to do a second Kickstarter to fund transcripts of existing Circulating Ideas episodes, I was very excited to think of how much this would open the interviews up, not just to people like me who prefer not to listen to podcasts, but also to students (who might not be able to sit through multiple hours looking for the topic they’re researching), deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and others who struggled with the audio format. There are a lot of podcasts I wish had transcripts, because I’d love to be able to share them with people who for whatever reason don’t listen to podcasts, but I know that the time and expense of creating transcripts is prohibitive. But now, thanks to this Kickstarter and the generosity of those who funded it, the interviews of Circulating Ideas are more accessible than ever.

Thinking about Steve’s interviews, and knowing that now anyone looking to find out Nancy Pearl’s thoughts on whether libraries have gotten too tech focused, or learn Buffy Hamilton’s feelings on social media, will be able to read their interviews and cite to them–actually makes me feel pretty sentimental (for someone who doesn’t even listen to podcasts). Knowing that this resource will be available in an even wider format is a great achievement.

My hope is that you will share the interviews, and this eBook, widely, and that two hundred years from now when students in the new field of “Information Science” want to know how libraries were in the early 21st Century, they’ll turn on their brain link to databases comprising the entirety of human knowledge, sit back, and listen to Steve say, “This…is Circulating Ideas.”

Get a copy of the ebook edition of Recirculated today with your $5 donation.

CircIdeas@5: David Lankes

The following was written as the introduction to the Recirculated ebook of transcripts by Dr. R. David Lankes. Dave has been a big supporter of the show over the years and has given his permission to re-run this essay here for the fifth anniversary of the show.

I have the sometimes pleasure of writing introductions for books. I say sometimes, because frankly some of the pieces I have been invited to introduce have not been very good or exciting.  You see the role of the introduction is like that of a keynote at a conference. You should set some themes, provide points to think about, and provoke conversation (often with little nuance).

The danger is that you often agree to write an introduction months before there is a text to introduce. So it can be uncomfortable to get the text and have a hard time finding anything to say. This is not the case here. Not only have I been a long time listener of Circulating Ideas, I find this work very very important.

This work is important for several reasons. It contains the thoughts of great librarians. It provides details on important projects and efforts. It provides a humanity to figures many of us know primarily through tweets, speeches, and articles. It is important because it adds depth and nuance to ideas bandied about the profession from advocacy, to learning, to graduate education, to reader’s advisory, to the ALA presidency.

Yes, all of that is important. If you were to ask Steve why he thought it was important, he would most likely cite those reasons. He would say it is because of the people he interviews, typically undervaluing his role and the most important thing this book, and the Circulating Ideas podcast represent: hope.

Hope for what? Hope for the profession. Circulating ideas is a testament to the belief that the field of librarianship is important, and will prevail through budget cuts, and annoyed professionals, and the myriad of snipes and limited visions put forth. Steve has not simply sat down with anyone available via Skype. He has created an ongoing curated conversation about a bright future for the profession.

It is always dangerous to use the phrase “the future of librarianship.” To many those are code words for lofty conversations disconnected from the realities of the field. The future of libraries has become the domain of prophetic futurists, glossy publications destined for a shelf, or a catch all for technological determinists convinced the latest gadget will save us. These are not traps into which Circulating Ideas fall.

The libraries and librarianship Steve has crafted here needs no saving. The librarianship Steve has documented is alive. It is strongly connected to the values of the past, the work of the present, and the firm belief in a better tomorrow. In these episodes and transcripts you will hear voices of people who know what they do is important and are happy to be a part of it. Steve talks to advocates, scholars, practitioners, and more that are actively making libraries and librarianship relevant.

This very book is a result of Steve exploring crowdfunding, self-publishing, and distributed networks of expertise. Steve would make a great guest on his own show, and yet he too readily disappears into a series of questions that spotlight his guests. He too often equates the importance of this work with download numbers. Those numbers are a minor metric when compared to the voices he has assembled.

So, to the reader I take the privilege of an introduction writer and assign you a task. Read these transcripts. Learn from the voices. Then step back, learn from the whole Circulating Ideas project, and make your own statement. Make a podcast, or a blog, or a book, or an opera. Make something that highlights how the work you and your peers do help today’s communities. Yes listen to Buffy, and John, and even the Annoyed Librarian (who wasn’t that annoying in this interview). But model your reactions on Steve. Steve, a library branch manager who on his own time decided to be a part of the future of the profession. Crowdsource, experiment, call upon friends call upon your heroes, and call upon voices big and small to curate your own vision of the future.

Our profession is too important and stretched too thin to simply be a reader or listener of Circulating Ideas. We must all join the effort to push the whole field forward. Expect it of yourself, and expect it of those around you. Don’t sit idly by as your co-workers paint dismal pictures of the future of your institution and profession. Be the voice of optimism and hope.

Embrace the idea that librarian are makers. We are stewards of community resources. That means we are much more than objective functionaries that use taxes/tuition/overhead/client funds to buy stuff and shelve it (physically or virtually). We are active parts of the community charged with crafting the story of the community. We feed that story through resources. We house that story in our buildings and web sites. We explore and add depth to that story through programs and often uncomfortable conversations. Our true collection is the community, and the purpose of that collection is learning.

Librarians are makers and educators. We are the stewards of the communities knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Our charge is well represented in the title of Steve’s podcast: we circulate ideas. Get to it.

Get a copy of the ebook edition of Recirculated today with your $5 donation.


I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot. I listen to podcasts about politics, about Apple, about geek culture, and, yes, about libraries. Five years ago, I decided to start my own podcast and five years ago today, the first episode was released with guest Buffy Hamilton.

For this week only, in celebration of the show’s fifth birthday, you can get an ebook copy of Recirculated: Transcripts from the Circulating Ideas Podcast for a $5 donation.

However, the best birthday present you can give to the podcast is to go to iTunes, Overcast, or your podcast app of choice, and rate and/or review the show. Not later, but now. Today, on the show’s fifth birthday. That’s the best way you can help to increase the show’s visibility to a wider audience.

What I love about podcasting is that it gives me the chance to have a conversation about a subject that I’m passionate about, a conversation with someone I admire and respect, and share that conversation with the world, but after five years, it can be exhausting work just the same.

Periodically going forward, I will be releasing episodes of a subseries called Recirculated
(using that name again – recirculating again!), where I re-release old episodes, starting this week with a replay of the first episode (but don’t worry – there’s a new interview coming later this week, too!). These episodes will appear in the same RSS feed as the regular show, so you don’t need to do anything differently to receive them in your subscription.

So, happy birthday to my first podcast. May the next five years go as quickly as the previous five. Thank you to everyone who has listened and supported the show over the years, including not one, but TWO Kickstarter campaigns, and the current Patreon.

Keep circulating your ideas.

Recirculated Kickstarter

Steve talks about his new Kickstarter to fund transcripts of the podcast.


When I started the Circulating Ideas podcast four years ago, I wanted to provide a platform for librarians to share the great work that they’re doing to keep libraries vibrant in the 21st century. I’ve talked to more than 100 librarians and library supporters over the course of the show and generated more than 60 hours of fantastic content, but I’ve found that there are a lot of people that podcasts just don’t reach for a variety of reasons: accessibility issues, different learning styles, or just personal preference, so that’s why I want to do transcripts.

However, accurate transcription is a time-consuming and skilled task, not to mention expensive, so that’s where you can help by supporting my new Kickstarter campaign. There are some pretty cool rewards like stickers, exclusive content, the chance to control the show’s content for an episode and best of all, an DRM-free ebook edition of the transcripts called Recirculated.

Stretch goals include video episodes, additional content added to the ebook, a bank for future transcriptions, and much more.

Even if you can’t donate financially, you can help by spreading the word about the campaign to your colleagues and friends.

Thanks, and let’s keep circulating the ideas!


Circulating Ideas FIRST Kickstarter!

Circulating Ideas SECOND Kickstarter!

31: Steve Thomas

Leah White interviews Steve Thomas, the regular host of the show, using your questions, as a thanks for supportingthe Kickstarter campaign.

Read the transcript.

This episode wraps up the string of episodes promised as part of the Kickstarter campaign back in the Spring. One of the stretch goals was an opportunity to ask me (Steve, the regular host of the show) questions, and regular contributor Leah White conducted that interview at the ALA Annual Conference this summer (we neglected to get a photo together, sorry!).

Fresh Air
Young Librarian Series | “Intersection” (Steve’s essay)

Two Years

Buffy Hamilton was not supposed to be the first guest on the show but I’m sure glad that she was.

Now, a few years back, I had first really gotten involved in the online librarian world through Leah White’s Young Librarian Series (and you can hear Leah on the show here, here, and also here). I had been getting more and more involved with professional activities on Twitter, including a stumbling attempt at keeping up a blog, and was looking for a way to contribute and participate more.

I had also been listening to a lot of podcasts, my favorite at the time being Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and realized that I wanted to hear an interview show featuring librarians. I searched around and while there were great library-related shows like T is for Training and Adventures in Library Instruction, they weren’t quite what I was looking for, so I decided to create it myself. Bobbi Newman was scheduled to speak at a local professional development event, and since I’d been following her work through her blog and Twitter, I got it in my head that I would interview her as my first guest. However, I couldn’t quite get everything together in time, so that fell apart (though Bobbi was a valuable asset for brainstorming and promotion of the show and I can’t thank her enough for that).

I had recently met Buffy Hamilton through social media and we clicked as colleagues and friends, and I was incredibly impressed with her efforts at her middle school library, so I asked her to be my first guest (I think she agreed because I was more interested in her Media21 program than her Kindle loaning program, which is all anyone else asked her about). The interview with Buffy completely set the tone for the show moving forward, despite some technical difficulties. My initial thought for the show was that I would ask questions and wait for the interviewee to answer, but it became more conversational, more back and forth, more engaging, helping it live up to its name.

I went on to interview many of the people I’ve looked up to in the profession that I never thought would agree to be on, like Sarah Houghton, Jessamyn West, David Lankes (not once, not twice, but three times!), the Unshelved guys, and the upcoming interview with Nancy Pearl. The show has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me, and I hope, for the listeners.

Thanks to all the guests who have appeared on the show over the past two years, to the guest hosts who helped me get through an exceptionally busy time, to all the colleagues and friends who have acted as sounding boards for crazy new ideas, to my wonderful listeners, many of whom came out to support the Kickstarter campaign, and of course my beautiful wife and kids for patiently putting up with me constantly making our printer unusable because my mic was using its USB port.

Post-ALA, the show will receive a few tweaks and improvements that I hope you’ll enjoy. Let’s keep circulating the ideas together.

Sunny Days

When I was five years old, fireflies were my friends. In the small South Carolina town of Sumter, I would walk outside as the day wound down into dusk, put my hand in the air and delight as the fireflies would land on my fingers. I would cup my hand over them, peeking between my fingers to watch them walk around and light up their temporary home between my palms. I named them all Sunny.

One day, one of my Sunny friends landed on my hand but this one looked a little different than the others. His backside was yellow but there was no light on it and he was rounder and fuzzier than I remembered. He also didn’t seem to appreciate his new home much, which I discovered when he stung me.

The final Sunny was a bee.

I can still remember how utterly betrayed I felt, that one of my beloved friends had hurt me. He wouldn’t be the last, of course, but he was the first. For awhile, I didn’t try to catch fireflies anymore, but I did eventually drift back, though I never named another.

Now, that was not an awesome experience. As much as I can still feel the pain that last Sunny caused (both physical and emotional), I can also recall the joy all the other Sunnies brought me, but I didn’t have the life experience to understand that one bad experience should not spoil countless good ones.

The thing about being an adult is that now I do understand and in a professional sense, that is what I try to do with the podcast I created, Circulating Ideas: show off the good experiences we create in libraries, which far outnumber the things not going our way. The profession is filled with innovative people, and I want the show to be a platform for them to show off how awesome they are. When I promote the show, I’m also promoting those guests who have been on and will be on, paying it forward.

I have done a lot of promotion for the show in the past, from writing guest posts for other blogs to appearing on other podcasts to posting updates to multiple social media accounts (some that I update more the others), but the biggest piece of self-promotion I’ve done, which is somewhat unique in the world of libraries, is my Kickstarter campaign, which ends on May 17.

Kickstarter allows creative projects to gather pledges to fund themselves, providing rewards to backers, with the safety net being that if a project is not fully-funded, no one pays out. Before embarking on this self-promotional journey, I studied successful Kickstarter projects and other projects related to podcasts and libraries (there were not a lot!), to see what the expectations were on setting rewards and how projects were presented. I listened to the New Disruptors podcast, which talks to people who use nontraditional ways of raising capital for their projects, and read more articles on Kickstarter than I care to count. I put together what I thought was a reasonable package to help me expand and enhance the show and went live. Within 48 hours, the project had been fully funded and the pledges continue to trickle in. So far, I have passed my first stretch goal – which are additional goals set, after initial funding is achieved – and hope to pass at least the second goal before the project ends. As much as the Kickstarter project will help me make the show bigger and better, it has also brought a lot of attention and I’ve hopefully picked up more listeners along the way, which will bring them to the attention of all the great people featured on the show.

We sometimes feel stung from the attacks on libraries but we need to remember that the future is bright for libraries if we can embrace the best of our profession and push forward into more sunny days. My hope is that I’m able to be a part of that, and I hope you will be, too.

Want to know more about the 30 Days of Awesome project? Check out these posts by Kelly, Liz, and Sophie.