or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Pinterest is the New Black

   March 21st, 2012

Pinterest logoIt's funny how rapidly new web tools are developed and adopted - I've only been hearing about Pinterest for the last couple months, but already it seems to have spread far and wide in libraries.

For those who don't know (like me until yesterday), Pinterest is visual social bookmarking. It's similar to Delicious*, in that you create a set of bookmarks to interesting things online to basically create a curated web directory - but it has images, so it's extremely visual and engaging. Libraries love curated directories (or pathfinders, or bibliographies, or whatever), and I think people respond better to pictures than text (witness the Online Newsstand) - so of course this is something to look into.

I just created an test account and started playing yesterday. I think I get the jist, but I'm also sure there's more to it. For libraries, the obvious use is creating virtual bookshelves - staff picks, best sellers, series books, If You Liked... lists, etc. - with the nice book covers linking back into the catalog.

However, this proved to be more of a pain to accomplish than I would have expected. Because Pinterest focuses on images and videos, if there isn't a big image on the webpage, it can't easily be pinned. This is the case for our catalog - the cover images shown are often smaller than 100 x 100 pixels, which is too small for Pinterest to pick up (using their bookmarklet button).

So, the manual workaround is to pin the image you want (our catalog does link to a bigger version of the cover, so at least that's easy to get to), view the pin, click the Edit button, then paste in the URL for that book in your catalog - and then you've got it. Not prohibitive, but it does take a little extra effort.

And that's just one way to use Pinterest - there are plenty of other examples of things to do:

  • Brookline (MA) Library on Pinterest
  • Walker Memorial (Westbrook, ME) Library on Pinterest
  • David Lee King on how the Topeka (KS) Library is using Pinterest
  • A Tame The Web post giving a nice overview of Pinterest
  • Onlinecolleges.net with a great list of library examples and ideas for Pinterest
  • Something we're going to use it for is to pin videos of library programs: our local cable station records many of our programs, then posts them on their website. The tool they use doesn't have a nice "embed" feature (like YouTube or other sites), so getting them into our website has always been slightly difficult - I think Pinterest will make this much easier
  • And don't forget the social nature of Pinterest - it also let you create little "Pin It" buttons to put on your website, to make it easy for other Pinterest users to pin your library's content (go to About > Pin It Button, and scroll to the Pin It Button for Web Sites section). Doing this for every item in the catalog isn't realistic, but it's worth considering for featured content

Also great is the Pin It bookmarklet I mentioned above - using this lets multiple computers (meaning, any staff or desk computer) pin website on the fly, so staff can easily add pins to your account whenever they stumble across something they'd like to share with patrons. To find it, click About > Pin It Button.

Something to always keep in mind is that Pinterest lets you use other peoples' images and videos in ways that might not be entirely consistent with copyright laws. So before you start pinning away, check out Pinterest, Copyright and the Library and How to Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law.

And like with most tools, the more you play with it, the ways you'll come up with to use it - so have fun and be creative. However, standard social media rules apply: there's no guarantee this tool will be there tomorrow, so be sure the library can degrade gracefully if the service changes or goes away.


*More on Delicious, and also: it looks like Delicious is getting visual, too.

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6 Responses to “Pinterest is the New Black”

  1. Issues | Richard Thau: Library, Information, Media, and More… Says:

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  4. Things I’ve been reading – March 2012 « Libraries, the universe and everything Says:

    […] Pinterest is the new black I haven’t got involved with pinterest yet, but doing more with visual resources is on my work agenda, and this seems like a handy guide for anyone thinking about setting up an account for their library. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a Comment Leave a Comment so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI […]

  5. What’s your Pinterest? | Chasing Reference Says:

    […] Swiss Army Librarian: Pinterest is the New Black […]

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