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3 Ways College Libraries Are Exploring Pinterest

Pinterest, the social network on which users share collections of images inspired by their hobbies and design interests on digital pin boards, has exploded in popularity since coming online in 2010. The Association of College and Research Libraries hosted an online seminar this week dealing with Pinterest’s potential in academic settings, and some college libraries have already incorporated it into their social-media tool kits. Here are three ways college library staff members say they’re using it:

Promoting Campus Events: This week, Saint Mary’s College of California is marking De La Salle Week, a celebration of the life of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the college’s Lasallian heritage. The Saint Mary’s library’s Pinterest page features a board about the saint. Sarah Vital, a reference and instruction librarian at the college, says Pinterest plays into librarians’ list-making habits, but is more appealing than text on a static Web page. “I think it’s in librarians’ nature to make lists, and that’s kind of what this is, but in an interactive and fun way,” she says. “And if it gets someone to notice, it’s worth it.”

Helping to Plan a Renovation: Virginia Tech is exploring a renovation of its Newman Library, and the “Imagine” board on its libraries’ Pinterest page shows off ideas for different kinds of work spaces. Another board collects images of unique rooms and paint colors for a renovation of the dean’s suite. The page has separate boards for historical library photos, book art, and a set of tips for surviving the end of the semester. Laura Purcell, the communications and marketing manager for the university’s libraries, says she’s experimenting with Pinterest as its users shape and improve the service, much in the same way that Twitter users made a raw social network more useful over time. “It’s such a new tool that it’s defining itself,” she says.

Finding Gaps in Online Library Materials: Rudy Leon, a reference and instruction librarian at the University of Nevada at Reno, notes that since images have to be online to be pinned, Pinterest can help identify materials that might be missing from library Web sites. “In the process of looking for things to pin, we found some gaps in what we have online,” she says, including event promotions. Her libraries’ Pinterest page features boards highlighting events, university history, library art, and books written by faculty authors. Ms. Leon adds that creating collections for books was challenging, since her library’s catalog wasn’t presenting book-cover images that could be pinned easily. But, she says, that limitation was “kind of nice, because I didn’t want this to be all about books.”

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by Russ Neumeier]

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