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Listen up: telling research stories through podcasting

By Jennifer Robinson

As someone who listens to multiple podcasts on a weekly basis, I’m always looking for new and interesting shows to stream during my walks with the dog or my weekend baking binges. Imagine my surprise and delight when I came across a podcast related to LIS to add to my podcast rotation! I was even more pleased when the creative minds behind So What? agreed to sit down with me and talk more about how the podcast came to be.

The creators of So What? Mike Ridley, kirstyn seanor and Alex Mayhew, three Ph.D. students in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University — describe it as a podcast about LIS research and why it matters. As Mike explains it, being part of an LIS Ph.D. program exposes them to a wide range of fascinating research, so the podcast’s related goals are sharing this research with practitioners and making connections to the day-to-day lives of the general public. In an effort to make LIS research accessible and to highlight its relevance, they often structure So What? episodes as casual conversations. Episodes have covered topics ranging from LGBTQ+ representation in children’s books to trolling, each lasting between 10 and 40 minutes. The variation in episode length is intentional: some topics naturally take more time to explore, while others can pack a punch with just a few minutes of dialogue.

So What? podcast logo
Image courtesy of so What?

Asked why they chose an audio format for sharing LIS research, Mike, kirstyn and Alex reflect on how research is often about telling stories: podcasts are a logical fit as an oral storytelling platform. Podcasts also offer an opportunity to share unique content with users they can’t get elsewhere, and help forge a more intimate relationship than is possible simply reading research results. For an example of a powerful, personal episode of So What?, seek out the latest offering, episode 1.9: Dementia and Information.

The team behind So What? is quick to point out that producing a successful podcast takes lots of time and dedicated individuals. Their best advice to anyone considering tackling a podcast? “To understand a podcast, do a podcast.” None of the group have formal training in podcast production; their success stems from a passion to learn, a willingness to try new things and many able teachers along the way, most of them colleagues in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.  

What’s next for So What? The podcast has worked well as a vehicle for research stories near the team at Western, but in the future, they hope it will become a platform for LIS researchers elsewhere. They invite anyone interested in sharing their research to email the So What team.

You can find the full catalogue of So What? episodes on the So What? website, Soundcloud and Stitcher.

Jennifer Robinson is Associate Chief Librarian at Western Libraries. You can reach her at at jrobins [at]

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