The purpose of this essay is to convince library staff that by creating and utilizing an Instagram account they will create more community involvement which will encourage more library use and create more opportunity for advertising library services because patrons will be encouraged to share and promote library services becoming more engaged with the library and librarians.
By creating an Instagram account for the public libraries or library districts librarians can create online interaction with patrons serving the dual purposes of creating a greater sense of community and increasing opportunities for advertising library services. The librarians can post pictures on Instagram that promote upcoming library events as well as to inform patrons of other important information regarding the library. For example if the library will be closed due to an upcoming holiday post a picture representing that holiday with the closure announcement. Likewise this could be used to inform patrons of policy changes or announcing that the library has started circulating a popular new book. Due to the ease of posting to Instagram a variety of announcements can be made quickly and easily.
Further having an Instagram will help foster a sense of community. One way to do this is to show more about the library and the librarians. For example the hashtag #tbt or throwback Thursday can be a fun way to show pictures from past library events, these can be used both to promote the history of the library and the librarians themselves a librarian could use a #tbt photo from when they first started working at the library or a funny picture from a library event giving patrons a greater sense of their personality and making them seem more approachable. The library can also post behind the scenes pictures as a way to help patrons get to know their librarians and as a way to build excitement for upcoming events. Additionally the library could post pictures of patrons and volunteers showcasing different services the library offers.
Patrons can also be actively involved in the libraries Instagram by tagging the library’s Instagram account in photos they took related to the library. The library can also create special hashtags to use on their photos and encourage patrons to do so too. For example if I were creating a hashtag for the library district I used growing up I would start it with their acronym PVPLD I would then add phrases that correspond to specific events such as #PVPLDKids or #PVPLDTeens for events aimed at those age groups. You could also create hashtags that are more inclusive of all patrons such as #PVPLDReads where patrons could post pictures of what they are currently reading, even giving them the ability to add short book reviews or if they are reading a book the library does not have, request it be purchased. Individual branches could either create their own hashtags to suit their needs or use the district tags with an individual branch tag and events can even have their own unique hashtag that is promoted on the photos and posters advertising the event. This helps both patrons and the library as they can then look at the photos tagged with these hashtags to see what’s going on with the library and as a way of keeping track of what patrons are promoting. Librarians can also use existing library related hashtags to reach an audience beyond their local patrons and to look at larger library trends.
Having a library presence on Instagram can help library patrons in two ways. First it can create a greater sense of community involvement and personal investment in what is happening at the library. Secondly it creates a place where library patrons can promote the services and events that they enjoy and also provide feedback to the library. Additionally it creates a way to promote the library to people who may not currently use its services. By gaining patron involvement the library is then promoted to all of their friends reaching people that the library would not normally advertise to and hopefully creating more interest in their services.
Hopefully by now you are convinced of benefits of having a library Instagram account. To further show how this actually works in a library setting these are a few resources written by librarians who utilize a successful Instagram account. These articles give examples of how to best use Instagram as a library resource and feature specific instances when libraries can use Instagram as well as tips on which photos to share. http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/10-interesting-ways-to-use-instagram-for-your-library/
Additionally here are some more general resources for those who are not already familiar with Instagram showing how to get started on Instagram, a basic guide to using hashtags and more specifically how using hashtags promotes the images you are sharing. http://mashable.com/2012/05/29/instagram-for-beginners/
In creating a library Instagram certain policies need to be in place to ensure the quality of content posted to the account and that the account receives the proper amount of attention regarding how often content is posted how comments on phots posted to the account are handled and keeping track of what is being posted using library hashtags. In order to create these policies the library should first look for similar policies that may already be in place, for example if the library already has another social media account or online presence such a blog start with guidelines concerning content posted there and modify if necessary. Even basic code of conduct policies can be a good starting place concerning what is and isn’t appropriate to post to the library’s Instagram account. There are also some Instagram specific policies to consider for example when looking at an Instagram account you can see all the people that follow that account as well as all the people who that account follows. There should be policies in place regarding which accounts the library will follow to prevent controversy. A library following a controversial page or a person who then posts a scandalous image could be seen as supporting something they do not. To avoid this policy should indicate what types of accounts the library should follow, the accounts of other libraries or library related accounts should be pretty safe. The personal accounts of the librarians could be another good choice depending on the librarian’s personal feelings, likewise local businesses that are linked to the library could also be potentially beneficial particularly to cross promote events they are involved in at the library. A specific policy about what accounts are okay to follow can help the library avoid controversy and embarrassment.
A small committee should be put together to decide on a policy for the Instagram account a good mix of employees would include management and human resources, as well as the librarians who are most interested in using the account. This way the policies reflect both the concerns of protecting the library’s image but also is sure not to stifle the creativity of the librarians who will be using the account. Prior to setting the library’s personal terms of service they should reflect on Instagram’s terms of service as well as existing policies that deal with similar concerns. They should also look at existing library Instagrams such as the New York Public Library or Los Angles Public Library to see what kind of content they are posting. There should also be a policy in place establishing a minimum of how often the library will post to the account ensuring that it does not become entirely inactive. In addition to setting policy this committee should appoint one person to be the head person in charge of the account. This person would be required to check on the account everyday a task that should not take very long, much like checking email. They will check for notifications, answer any questions asked in comments to the library, and if the library decides to keep records of Instagram use make notes of data such as number of likes a picture has gotten or new followers to the account. While this person would be the primary keeper other librarians would have access to the account and could therefore help manage these duties.
There should be little to no cost in creating an Instagram for the library. The app is free and the only technology required to use it is a smart phone. With smartphones being so prevalent these days many librarian will have their own so they can simply log onto the library account when they desire to post. If there are librarians who do not own a smart phone they can request pictures be posted by the librarian who is the primary keeper of the account. The library could look into getting a smart phone for the library for the purpose of using to post to and manage the library’s Instagram account but this seems unnecessary. As far as additional time spent on the account there is a small amount of time that will need to spent daily to maintain the account and additionally the time spent actually posting pictures to the account but this time should be minimal. A large part of the appeal of using an Instagram to promote the library is the simplicity and the inexpensive nature of using Instagram.
There should also be relatively little training involved in establishing the library’s Instagram. Once the account is set up and the policies regarding how the account will be used all the basic training involved can be done in a regular staff meeting. The librarian appointed as the primary keeper of the account can go over the policies for the account in the meeting as well as give a demonstration to the staff by posting the accounts first picture. If anyone needs further or more detailed instruction they can either look up the information in an online tutorial or the staff member in charge of the account can give them a one on one demonstration later so that they are more familiar with the process. Additionally there should be somewhere that all staff can access a copy of the library’s Instagram policies, written basic instructions for posting a picture, and the account’s user name and password so that librarians can review this information and post their own pictures at any time.
A library Instagram account also involves minimal marketing work. Adding a find us on Instagram message to already existing promotional materials should be a simple change. The Instagram screen name can be posted to other social media accounts, added under existing contact information on future promotional materials like library pamphlets, and posted on the library website. Additionally when the library’s Instagram is first launched the library can create posters for the library specifically advertising the library’s username along with any hashtags they want associated with the account to encourage patrons to not only follow them on Instagram but also to interact with them by posting their own pics using these hashtags. The library can also add the library’s Instagram account information and relevant hashtags to future posters promoting upcoming library events. For example adding follow us on Instagram and post your own pics using #LibraryTeenMovieNight, to a poster promoting a movie night for teens at the library. By simply adding the Instagram information to materials that are already being produced the library can promote the account without added cost or significant time.
To track the progress of the library’s Instagram account librarians chart the number of likes their pictures get over time as well as their number of followers. By examining when the library gets a lot of likes or new followers they can note trends in what types of images and services are popular as well as what best promotes the library Instagram. Further the library can use comments on pictures to gain feedback on the services and events represented in those photos. In the future the library can expand their Instagram account by posting more often or creating specific weekly posts. For example if the library has a significant historical archive they can post pictures of documents and photos from the archives on a specific day of the week. Further they can also use the Instagram to run contests by asking patrons to repost a specific photo or post their own photos using a special hashtag to win a prize. These contests can tie into and help promote other library programs and services. For example posting a picture of a photo promoting an upcoming library movie night to win a set of tickets to the local movie theater or posting a picture of themselves with a book they’ve read for the teen summer reading program to win a reading prize pack. By finding new ways to keep patrons interested in their Instagram account the library gains further ability to promote itself and its programs.
Creating a library Instagram account is a great way to promote not only the library for its services but also as a community. It serves as a way to not only spread information about the library but also to get patrons more invested in the library. This comes at very little cost, time spent or risk but has the potential for great reward in terms of patron awareness and involvement. A good library Instagram is fun, informative, and overall creates a better sense of knowing the library.
Buck, S. (2012, May 29). The Beginner’s Guide to Instagram. Retrieved February 17, 2015, from http://mashable.com/2012/05/29/instagram-for-beginners/
Instagram. (2015). Instagram Help Center. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from https://help.instagram.com/351460621611097
Kroski, E. (2012, October 4). 9 Ways to Use Instagram for Your Library. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/10-interesting-ways-to-use-instagram-for-your-library/
Mollett, A., & McDonnell, A. (2014, April 16). Five ways libraries are using Instagram to share collections and draw public interest. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/04/16/five-ways-libraries-are-using-instagram/
Poggiali, J. (2013, September 30). Using Instagram for your library: 9 strategies – Emerging Tech in Libraries. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://emerging.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2013/09/using-instagram-library/
Sornoso, E. (2014, August 18). How to Use Instagram Hashtags to Expand Your Reach |. Retrieved February 17, 2015, from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/instagram-hashtags/
Tmcclary. (2012, October 11). Five Ways to Use Instagram to Promote Your Public Library. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://marketing.njstatelib.org/blogs/2012/oct/11/tmcclary/five_ways_to_use_instagram_to_promote_your_public