Instagram describes itself as a “simple way to capture and share the world’s moments.” Libraries around the world are using the mobile application to showcase a wide variety of perspectives. Amid an endless sea of snapshots of edible delights and selfies on Instagram, libraries can provide a breath of fresh air with snapshots of literary delights and shelfies. Libraries show their spaces, displays, architecture, collections, events, staff, and users. The images and videos that appear on a library’s Instagram account tell a collective story of the vital role that the library plays in the community. The account, moreover, becomes a powerful marketing tool that has the potential to inspire visitors to view the library as a destination.
As the application’s tagline suggests, capturing and sharing moments at the library is considerably easy but it requires some digging to uncover inspiring posts. Discovering the accounts of prominent public libraries such as the New York Public Library and your own local libraries can be simple enough. The accounts could be searched for by name using Instagram’s search function, but discovering new libraries and library related trends can be overwhelming.
Hashtags allow content on Instagram to become accessible to a wider audience. Instagram users can explore content that are publicly uploaded by searching the hashtags that the creators have coupled with their posts. Browsing results of the most popular tags can prove to be impractical and daunting. Exploring the popularly employed #librariesofinstagram, for example, yields thousands of images that are related to libraries; searching for #library yields million of hits. As of yet, the only way to browse results on Instagram is through infinite scrolling. Since the results are ordered from the most recent to the least recent, seeing all of the posts for a given hashtag depends on one’s willingness to continue scrolling.
Results that are more relevant to your interests are accessible by searching for specific hashtags. Here is a sampling of hashtags being used by libraries today:
- Examples of tags that encourage participation include #bookface and #bookfacefriday which showcases creative uses of book jackets. #libraryshelfie features library shelves with or without library staff members to accompany them. Newly created #libraryinmyhand promotes electronic resources and services offered by libraries.
- Librarians that are fashion conscious may be keen on viewing posts tagged with #librarianwardrobe or #librarianstyle to see what librarians are wearing.
- Teen librarians may be interested in posts that are tagged with #teenlibrary, #teenlibrarian, #makerspace, and #yalit.
- #childrenslibrarian, #storytime, #flannelboard, and #earlyliteracy are relevant to librarians working with children. Some libraries have also chosen to have Instagram accounts for teens such as Franklin Park Library Teens.
- Anyone seeking inspiration on promotional displays may be interested in those tagged with #librarydisplay.
- Examples of responses to reference questions appear upon searching for the cheeky tag #letmelibrarianthatforyou.
- Posts of programs at the library can be seen by searching #libraryprogram and #libraryevent. (Some nationwide programs have their own tags such as the early literacy program #1000booksbeforekindergarten.)
While hashtags offer a way of accessing Instagram posts from the perspective of the library, location tagging is unique in that it offers a way to re-discover the library as it is experienced by its visitors. Library users on Instagram are publicly uploading their own content and are tagging the library’s location. Regularly reviewing the content allows libraries to assess how visitors are using the library and uncover what patrons like and dislike about the library.