Pinterest in Academic Libraries

View of the Seattle Central Library Reading Room
Seattle Central Library (c)Pavan Trikutam CC0

Note: An revised version of this brief was published by See Also in their 2017 Journal.

It has been over ten years since the launch of Facebook in 2004. In the intervening decade a whole ecosystem of social media platforms has developed and transformed the way that people communicate. Of particular interest has been a move away from the written word to a system of visual communication typified by social media platforms such as Pinterest.

Pinterest offers several opportunities to make the library a fun experience and eases patrons’ information seeking challenges. Pinterest’s visual format allows patrons to quickly scan book covers as part of their browsing activities. Librarians can share their passion with a wider audience. Patrons can take a more active role by commenting on library posts and sharing content with librarians to include on the library Pinterest board.

Introduction to Pinterest

Example of pins on the Pinterest website

Pins on Pinterest (c)Logan Bingle

Pinterest is a visual book marking service. Using a Pinterest account, users book mark webpages of interest and associate each webpage with an image. These images are pins. Users can also organized pins into broad categories called boards. (Thornton, 2012)

What sets Pinterest a part is that Pinterest users can search and follow boards they find interesting. This allows organizations and individuals to develop an audience around specific topics. Retailers have already used Pinterest to rapidly increase traffic to their stores and drive sales. Libraries can use the same tools to grow and enhance patron engagement with their collections and services.

Creating a Plan

The critical first step when implementing a new social media account is to develop a plan for its use and growth. Your Pinterest plan should layout several key points.

  • Content
  • Keywords
  • Boards
  • Tone
  • Editorial Schedule
  • Assessment
  • Copyright


Decide on the content you will share with your users. This might include:

  • Recommended books
  • Study suggestions
  • Images from digital collections
  • Inspiration quotes or images appropriate for your library

Remember that it is okay to have multiple content types.


Once you have decided on your content you should consider the keywords you will use to describe your content. These keywords will help patrons find your content on Pinterest and guide your titles and descriptions.

Avoid keywords that are too general or too specific. Consider words or phrases that patrons use to ask for help in your library and online. Also consult with your library to see if they have a set of standard keywords for the organization, but be open to adding keywords as appropriate.


Decide on the boards you will use to organize your content. It is often easiest to organize boards by the content types you decided on. Also consider your keywords when deciding on boards and board titles.


Deciding on a tone for your social media is critical to engaging with your patrons. You should consult with your library to see if they have a style guide or social media plan that layouts out the library’s tone. Generally speaking casual, second person usually works best online because it sounds more conversational and draws people in.

Editorial Schedule

Regular posting is critical to engaging with you audience. A publishing schedule will help keep you on track. Your publishing schedule should detail:

  • types of pins you are publishing
  • what audience the pin is speaking to
  • when the pin will be published
  • who is responsible for publishing the pins


Develop a system of tracking your account’s activity and reach. Some basic metrics to track include:

  • followers
  • re-pins
  • likes
  • pin views
  • board views

Set aside time to evaluate these metrics and consider changes to your plan.


When you pin something on Pinterest this creates a copy of the pins’ image. If the image is copyrighted this is a violation of the copyright. As part of your plan, you should carefully consider what images you will pin to avoid copyright concerns and develop a list of image sources for your team.

There are several sources and practices that are best to avoid when looking for images to pin.

  • Do not find images to pin via a google images search.
  • Do not pin images on external websites that lack a clear copyright statement.
  • If you are ever in doubt about an image’s copyright status skip it.

As part of your plan set up a number of image sources you trust and can direct team members to. Some places to look for images to pin include:

  • The library’s webpage and image collection
  • com
  • Partner organization’s websites that okay you to pin their content
  • Wikimedia, be sure to read copyright documentation beneath images on this site

Implementing Your Plan

Once you have your plan it is time to implement it. As the agreed upon Pinterest account managers carry out the plan it is good to keep some suggestions in mind.

Automated Posting

Automated posting allows you to set aside a single time during the week to set up the bulk of your posting. Some automated Pinterest services include:

  • Viralwoot (free)
  • Buffer
  • Viraltag
  • Curalate

Be sure to stay engaged with your patrons by setting aside 10-15 minute slots throughout the week to check on comments and re-pin content from people you follow.

Post Description

Be sure to include a unique description with each image that helps readers understand the image and the resource it points to. Use the plan’s keywords to focus your descriptions.

Post Links

Include a link back to the webpage that the image points to so users do not have to search through an entire website. For books and cataloged resources this can be particularly important.

Integrate with the Library Work Flow

Use the library’s work flow as a source of content for Pinterest. If your library has a blog or is bringing in new books you can post these items as pins.

This avoids copyright issues since the content is internal to the library. Pinning content internal to the library also allows you to reuse existing content instead of always creating content.

Connect with Library Partners and Patrons

Be sure to include library patrons and partners on your Pinterest account. Develop and follow a list of partner websites and re-pin content that is relevant to your boards and patrons.

Encourage patrons to share content with you as well. If the content fits within your category types and meets with your copyright policy re-pin the content and let the patron know you used their content. This helps patrons become active members of the library.


Pinterest should be a fun way to actively engage with the community around the library. It allows librarians to share their interest and collections with a global audience. Enhances engagement with library partners and the community at large. Allows library patrons to grow their active participation in the library and explore the library in new ways.


Baggett, M., & Gibbs, R. (2014). Historypin and Pinterest for Digital Collections: Measuring the Impact of Image-Based Social Tools on Discovery and Access. Journal of Library Administration, 54(1), 11–22

Hansen, K., Nowlan, G., & Winter, C. (2012). Pinterest as a Tool: Applications in Academic Libraries and Higher Education. The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 7(2), 1–11.

Redish, J. (2012). Letting Go of the Words (2nd ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.

Thornton, E. (2012). Is Your Academic Library Pinning ? Academic Libraries and Pinterest. Journal of Web Librarianship, 6(3r), 164–175.

Creative Commons License
Pinterest in Academic Libraries by Logan Bingle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License