Librarians Stare at Their Phones, Too!

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Just kidding… It’s true, though, that libraries of all kinds have gotten into the social media game, particularly during the period of COVID-19 closures.

Your library may have had a Twitter or Facebook account for years. Most public libraries have at least a small presence on these platforms for sharing information about press releases and library events. While many libraries were previously only using them for marketing, during the pandemic Facebook became one of the platforms for hosting virtual events. Storytime, genealogy presentations, summer reading program performers — these are all examples of events I attended virtually via Facebook during shut-downs. The best part for me? I was able to attend programs at libraries in other cities!

YouTube and Instagram, both so visual, have become platforms where patrons can go to find all kinds of things related to books and libraries. YouTube has a wealth of videos on any topic under the sun, including adults and kids recommending books, illustrators demonstrating their artistic process, and libraries posting about their resources. The Seattle Public Library’s YouTube channel posts author talks, job skills workshops, and general library information in many languages. The New York Public Library has created series called “Library Stories,” talking to their local patrons about the library’s impact on their lives. Wake County Public Libraries (South Carolina) update their storytime offerings on YouTube throughout the week on their “What’s Happening in Wake?” channel.

Source: Brooklyn Public Library’s Instagram Page

Instagram content from libraries really runs the gamut. Since Instagram is mainly photos, it gives libraries an opportunity to market themselves and their content in ways that are still somewhat traditional. The Free Library of Philadelphia @freelibrary account is a nice mix of promoting programming, sharing random trivia, recommending books, and issuing public announcements. Instagram is a good place to promote new library services; Salt Lake City Public Library @slcpl shared several attractive posts about their seed library this summer. Some libraries take a more playful approach and get involved in trends like #BookFaceFriday. The video capabilities on Instagram are a popular place for staff to recommend books or to post short video tours. Brooklyn Public Library @bklynlibrary has posted entire cooking programs on Instagram in their “Community Cooking” series.

Children’s authors and illustrators, in particular, really took to Instagram and its Instagram Live feature during the pandemic. Instagram is a great place to follow authors, publishers, and other librarians to keep up with new books and ideas. They often cross-promote, and you can get a real sense of what is trending.

Speaking of trends, TikTok is the hottest social media platform right now. TikTok is an app for very short video content. It is often under a minute and often uses musical overlays, not just speaking, when sharing a visual message. TikTok is really popular with teens, and you’ll find a lot of the book and library content is focused on YA books; some of the contributors with the most followers are school librarians. There are quite a few articles and posts around the web about why your public library ought to get on TikTok and how exactly to do it.

What kinds of things are libraries posting on TikTok? The very most popular is short book recommendations and even just cover shots of recommended books accompanied by music. #booktok content is so popular, it is driving book sales. Barnes and Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com) now even has a page dedicated to trending #booktok books. Many #booktok videos are live reactions to books as readers start a book they’re excited to read, cut to how they were feeling mid-book, and then finally tack on their immediate reaction at the end of the book – the more emotional, the better!

Other popular library content includes dispelling myths about libraries, showing how services work, and sharing observations about daily life in the library. A LOT of content is library comedy, silly shenanigans, and gags. Do you have a tech-savvy comedian on your staff? Put them in charge of your TikTok. The best way to get a sense of what is out there is to look at popular accounts and hashtags and see what other libraries are doing.

Kelsey Bogan, the Library Media Specialist at Great Valley High School (PA) has over 41,000 followers @gvhslibrary. She says one of her favorite parts of using #librarytiktok is reaching out to other librarians and creators and sharing ideas. According to her, TikTok is a much more genuine place than the other social media platforms and people are willing to help out. Miss B. also says not to let your age worry you; users don’t care how old you are or how you look, they just want good content. I have heard Miss B. speak a couple of times, but you can read more from her article in Schools Catalogue Information Services.

Here is a handy list of hashtags and handles to help you get a feel for #librarytiktok:

#librariansoftiktok

#tiktoklibrarian

#booktok

#blackbooktok

#diversifyyourbookshelves

@maricopalibrary

@comsewogue.library

@doverpubliclibrary

@gppubliclibrary

@ezeekat

@baille.the.librarian

@alifeofliterature @kendra.reads


Please share with us: Does your library have a social media account you’re especially proud of? Do you have favorite content we should check out? I am very new to TikTok and would love to hear more!

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

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