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

Pinterest is the New Black

   March 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog

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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Delicious Has A New Home

   May 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Delicious+AVOSBig news - Delicious has been sold, and the new owners sound great.

This announcement came last week (along with an email to every Delicious user), but it hasn't made much of a splash. I've seen a few posts in the library world, but I am surprised* it hasn't been bigger news.

Press releases about the transition were released by both Delicious and the new owners, AVOS (the guys who founded of YouTube), and the future does sound promising: AVOS is apparently hiring staff, plans to work with the Delicious community, and intends to develop new features. Pretty significant for a product that hasn't changed in years.

Delicious users have until July 2011 to opt-in to transitioning to the new platform. I did it this weekend, and it's quick and easy - just log in, verify your details (and at least skim the new terms of service and privacy policy), and you're set.

Here's the message that displays when you begin the transition:

Delicious is moving to a new home

Yahoo! is excited to announce that Delicious has been acquired by the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. As creators of the largest online video platform, they have firsthand experience enabling millions of users to share their experiences with the world. Delicious will become part of their new Internet company, AVOS.

To continue using Delicious, you must agree to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks to AVOS.

Reasons to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks

As soon as you let Yahoo! move your Delicious account, you will:

  • Enjoy uninterrupted use of Delicious.
  • Keep your Delicious account and all your bookmarks.
  • Keep the same look and feel of Delicious as you have today, and enjoy future innovations for the product.

It's easy to have Yahoo! move your account to AVOS. When you do, you will be subject to the AVOS terms of service and privacy policy.

What happens if you do not move your bookmarks?

  • Delicious in its current form will be available until approximately July 2011.
  • After that, you will no longer be able to use your existing Delicious account and will not have access to your existing bookmarks or account information.

Learn more >>

I, for one, am happy about this announcement - yay for not having to rework the library's subject guides.


*This surprises me because, of all the online tools out there, Delicious seems tailor-made for librarians. Even discounting the social part, bookmarking sites like this are exactly what librarians have been striving to do since the internet was invented - catalog it. Delicious (and similar sites) not only lets us catalog websites how we see fit, but also allows the power of critical mass to categorize every website. It seems like library schools across the land should have an entire course dedicated to Delicious (and social bookmarking).

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