Picture This – The Benefits of Libraries Using Instagram

First, a disclaimer – I LOVE Instagram. It gets me. And I get it. Since joining Instagram a few years ago I find myself looking at everything with the eye of a wannabe amateur photographer. There is just so much beauty and information in our world that needs to be recorded and shared. Photo sharing sites such as Instagram and Flickr allow us to turn our smart phones into top quality cameras – just snap, crop and choose a filter – and almost any photo can look like a shot worthy of a Time magazine cover.

So, enough of my gush fest. Libraries and Instagram, is it a beneficial relationship? Absolutely! Libraries are all about the visual, and so is Instagram. Instagram also has the market cornered amongst the younger demographic; according to Yellow (TM) Social Media Report from May 2013, 71% of Australians aged between 14 and 29 have an Instagram account. The other 29% must be grounded.

While Facebook slowly becomes ‘boring’ and ‘uncool’ amongst the younger generation – as parents, relatives and grandparents join up to the social media giant, ‘get connected’ and post embarrassing comments all over the place (this is what my kids say, so it must be true!) – Instagram steadily holds its own with the tech-fad lovers that are Gen Why Y. Libraries seeking new members can use Instagram to their benefit, attracting the technologically inclined type of patron, people who may have only thought of libraries as places to go when doing assignments or projects for school. I can’t think of one teenager I know who doesn’t have a smart phone constantly attached to their hand, so it stands to reason that being a presence on ‘fun’ photo sharing sites such as Instagram – tapping into the hashtag phenomena, letting potential patrons know that libraries are more than just books in the 21st century – is a definite way to catch ’em while they’re young and keep ’em ’til they’re done.

I follow a number of libraries on Instagram, not just because of my Social Media studies, but because they are interesting, informative and post fascinating photos that often inspire me to seek out a particular book or Google an event or author. The State Library of New South Wales (follow them on Instagram at publiclibrariesnsw) suggest on their blog, available at http://blog.sl.nsw.gov.au/pls/index.cfm/2013/12/19/hashtag-instagram-and-nsw-public-libraries that public libraries in NSW should hashtag pictures posted on Instagram and Flickr with #nswpubliclibraries to showcase libraries and link photos with this hashtag to a group, encouraging discussion and a flow of new followers. This was posted on the State Library blog in December 2013 and so far there are 99 pictures on Instagram with that particular hashtag. By clicking on any photo, you are taken to the page where the picture was originally published and from there you double tap on the image to ‘like’ it, then tap on the name at the top to view all pictures posted by that library, press ‘follow’ and voilà! You are now receiving pictures in your Instagram feed from your favourite libraries.

Bond University in Queensland, Australia, recently ran a “Join The Dots” competition on Instagram during its 25th Anniversary celebrations, which coincided with National Library and Information Week. The idea was to encourage students to use the library’s resources to “get untwisted” when preparing for assignments. The prize was the Twister game, of course! It was a very eye-catching and clever idea by the obviously very clever and tech-savvy library staff at Bond Uni. Each picture posted was of a letter in a circle and underneath, a short informative blurb containing tips for study and staying on top of assessments and assignments – J for journals; O for orientation, I for information, N for news – and so on. An absolute genius idea! And the library’s followers increased substantially during the competition!

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Pictures from Instagram – Bond University Library @ bondlibrary

Hell, they certainly grabbed my attention and I live over 800 kilometres away!