Should you pin your hopes on Pinterest?
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Pin your hopes on Pinterest?

Every so often, a new social media site starts to make the rounds on the hype circuit.   The latest of these is a new service called Pinterest.  Pinterest is still in beta, and is currently invite-only.  However, despite this, it made Time’s 50 Best Websites of 2011 list.

Pinterest is an interesting tool, for sure.  It allows you to curate (“pin”) pictures from around the web, for from other users, and organize them into themed collections and categories.  While users can comment on their own and others’ pins, the appeal of the site is almost entirely visual.  (I recently described it to someone as “image porn.”)  Seeing the incredibly diverse number of things that people pin is fascinating, and I often find myself repinning (think of it as a form of sharing, much like reposting on Facebook) what others have pinned.

The number of uses and categories is seemingly limited only by your own creativity.  While I often find myself wandering over to Facebook as a small break from regular work, I now have added Pinterest to my rotation of “stuff to look at for fun.”  I anticipate that I will soon fill up my “Cool Ideas” board with stuff I find there.    Organizing ideas, recipes, DIY projects and many, many more.  I have found that I really love Pinterest, when I didn’t think that I would.

The point that keeps running through my mind is, though, “how would a LIBRARY use this?”  To be honest, I don’t have a good answer.  A library could pin book covers, but there’s no function that will allow you to link it back to its catalog.   Local history pics might be kind of interesting but, again, no ability to link back to the library, or to related pictures.  Pictures of programs aren’t really the right kind of content for Pinterest, which is primarily about pure visual appeal.   However, I have seen some individual librarians make very good use of the site; book display ideas, teen program ideas and even a group board for library and information science, featuring cool libraries and library-related pictures.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • All of your content is public and viewable to anyone.  However, even when Pinterest goes public, the chances of someone seeing something you’ve pinned are fairly low (unless they specifically follow you); only items that get pinned by hundreds of people make the “Popular” board.
  • Should your library run out and score a Pinterest invite?  At this point, I’d have to say “no.”  If your library wants to share pictures of things it’s doing, Flickr is a better fit. If you want to try it out though, I’m giving away invites to the first 5 people who comment (appropriately, people) on this post–don’t just holler “First!”  Lameness gets you nada.
  • Have ideas about how a library could effectively use Pinterest?  Share!

There are 9 comments

  1. I recently just started building a Pinterest account for the Library I work for. I haven’t found a great use for it yet, but I see some possibilities sharing specific information in a more visual manner. I was surprised that many people were already “following” or “repinning” pictures and articles that were up.

    I also could see it being used internally. Ask staff to sign up, using invites, and having everyone contribute ideas on what they wanted to do.

  2. My library does not use Pinterest, but I have a friend (and fellow librarian) who started using boards for her public library ( She’s posted mainly book covers for new books, special categories, and book related crafts.

    I would love to see more libraries on Pinterest, sharing ideas and the like.

    The Social Networking Librarian as also discussed this :

  3. We’ve had great success using pintrest to build booklists. It’s far easier than building them on our website — then we just link to them from the website or other social media. Our most updated is our new books list, which we update weekly — so if you miss the new books one week, the previous weeks are there for them as well.

  4. A library colleague and I recently discussed this intriguing and entertaining tool. I’m contemplating something with spine poetry? Oh the possibilities,

  5. Even if you grab the book cover from somewhere else on the web, you can edit the pin to link back to the library’s catalog…so that’s one way to gain hits. Even better, if you have a book recommendation blog, you could link back to that on Pinterest which is far more helpful to the general population rather than just your community (maybe).

    One thing I find very annoying about Pinterest (and I use it often), is that people do not properly describe their pins. If the pin has a great description with good keywords, it’s far more likely to be pinned often and become popular. In fact, I often correct links (for example, people post to the tumblr main page instead of the actual post link…that really irks me) and provide better descriptions which gets my pins repinned and liked often.

    And the booklists idea from Baldwin! That’s brilliant!

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