Pinterest: A New Social Media Opportunity for Libraries

Pinterest is one of the newest social media websites that is rapidly gaining popularity. The site’s philosophy is to connect people through what they find interesting.  Users can create multiple boards and “pin” images or videos off of other websites to their boards to share with others. It is like one’s own personal post-it board, but for the internet. Like many, I am attracted to Pinterest because it is a popular message board where both the users and advertisers “pin” stunning images and quotes.  Furthermore, the website is simple, clean and easy to navigate.  Because Pinterest is so visually based, I believe it provides a potential avenue for libraries to share their positive qualities on the internet.

Libraries on Pinterest

Pinterest provides a new internet venue to market a library’s online brand.  A library can make its own profile and create boards, pinning photos and video showcasing how beautiful and inviting the library is.  A library can also attract users through pinning pictures of library events, lib-guides, the libraries top picks, and other services.  There are many possibilities to share.  All pins link to the original website, and thereby, it provides an avenue to get even more visitors to come to the library’s home page!  In fact many public libraries have already begun including the Westerville Library  and the Clearwater Library.  The Westerville Library has an extensive collection of boards and pins, but my favorites are the Staff Picks, Unexpected Library Marketing, and Quotes About Reading because they provide fun visuals into the world of libraries.

I believe part of a library’s unofficial mission should be to combat old stereotypes.  One of the primary reasons non-users do not come through the library’s doors is because they have traditional views of the library as dusty, archaic and intimidating with shushing librarians! Through using visually-based social media outlets such as Pinterest, librarians can slowly but surely re-market the image of our libraries into modern, friendly and innovative community resources.

I’ve seen many library related pins and boards, including the Beautiful Libraries board which consists of pins of gorgeous libraries.   Furthermore, other users can like and share what they find through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, opening up even more possibilities for a catchy logo or library image to go viral!  This is especially important as Pinterest can help spread the word on campaigns to save libraries from funding cuts. The pin-board libraryness contains images with catchy phrases about the importance of libraries.

The Downside of Pinterest

While Pinterest provides a great avenue for sharing and promotion, it does have its limits.  The library can only pin images or video; it is not conducive to in-depth discussion, and one cannot pin blogs and other text-based internet social media.  Not all libraries are modern or impressive, especially with the recession and budget cuts.  Therefore, it might be harder for such libraries to take striking photographs for Pinterest, especially if they do not have staff familiar with photography and Photoshop.  A plain image will quickly be glanced over with all the other remarkable images on Pinterest.

The biggest downfall of Pinterest for libraries is in the realm of copyright. A library using Pinterest must be careful to post only images or video that it owns the copyright for. Of course, a library must ascertain the permission of patrons in non-public pictures it wishes to post, especially if there are children in the pictures.  Moreover, Pinterest enters the grey area in terms of copyright vs. fair use on the internet.  The library must protect itself from potential liability, especially given the rapid ways copyright law is evolving case by case.

While I have my concerns, especially in regards to copyright and liability for libraries on the internet, the fact is Pinterest provides new opportunities for librarians to promote their libraries on the internet and connect with others who are interested in the library field.  Keeping in mind copyright, I think libraries should keep an eye on this increasingly popular social media outlet.

Dorotea Szkolar

I am an alumna of the iSchool MLIS program and am mainly interested in writing about technology and libraries. Contact me at or @doroteaszkolar if you would like to chat.

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