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GW Libraries Start to Pin
September 04, 2012
The content-sharing site Pinterest helps the libraries connect with users in a new way.
Pinterest users can now pin a new type of content nestled alongside snapshots of baked goods and DIY craft ideas: posts from the George Washington University Libraries.
Gelman and Eckles Libraries are now on the content-sharing site Pinterest, advising events, sharing updates on new databases and posting collections, favorite books and even funny pictures.
Anne Ward, director of communications for GW Libraries, runs the Gelman account, while Robin Delaloye, manager of strategic planning for GW Libraries, began the Eckles account, which is now managed by Eckles staff. They recently discussed the accounts and how they help the library reach students, faculty and staff on campus.
Q: How did the idea to jump into Pinterest come about?
Ms. Ward: I used Pinterest personally and also attended the “Computers in Libraries” conference back in the spring. I attended a talk on outreach methods, and one of them included tips on using Pinterest.
Ms. Delaloye: I had heard some students discussing Pinterest, but hadn’t truly considered adding it to our social media presence until one of our student employees gave me an incredibly enthusiastic tour of the site. Hearing her talk about how she uses Pinterest and speaking with other students about it made me see how Eckles could benefit from it as well.
Q: Why do it?
Ms. Ward: The Gelman Library has a story to tell, and any method we can used to tell that story should be implemented—especially one as popular and fun as Pinterest.
Ms. Delaloye: We are always looking for opportunities to meet students where they already are. It was clear from talking to our students that they are on Pinterest and want Eckles to be there too.
Q: What is already—or will be—featured on the accounts?
Ms. Ward: Some of the Kiev Collection and our D.C. history is already up and currently being added to, in addition to boards for the entrance floor renovation, Gelman Exposed, Cafe Gelman and research services. I would like to pin more examples found in our Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) and the Global Resources Center.
Ms. Delaloye: Eckles’ Pinterest account is still very much a work in progress, but students have suggested we post our book displays as a pin board, post photos of our exhibits and events and share images from our advertising campaigns. We also look to re-pin study and academic tips from other libraries and users.
Q: Why are social media sites like Pinterest important to a library, particularly at the university level?
Ms. Ward: I think it’s easy to only think of Gelman in terms of a place to study. Obviously, with a renovation underway, a comfortable work environment is very important. But Gelman’s physical appearance pales in comparison to what we possess on the inside. I am frequently amazed by the historical documents we have access to. Also, people don’t always read physical signs. We can put a poster in the lobby, but people are so inundated by advertising they don’t always read and heed it. I think social media is built into our users’ routine, and if we become a part of that routine they may stay more well-informed of what’s happening.
Ms. Delaloye: For many students, the library feels like the most intimidating place on campus, where people will scowl at and shush you. Helping students know their libraries for the accessible and welcoming places they are is job No. 1 for successful students and a successful library system.
Q: How will university community members benefit from this?
Ms. Ward: There are so many ways. It will alert users to what’s happening, whether it’s renovation work that is going on, research services made available, and talks and events offered and open to the public. But most importantly, our students, faculty and outside researchers can visualize what we hold in our collections and what they can use to develop their own research.
Ms. Delaloye: People learn and absorb information in different ways and our job as educators is to get that information out to students in the ways they can best absorb it. Libraries often don’t have a way to get their information to very visual learners, and Pinterest offers us an opportunity to do that.
Q: Are other university libraries launching similar initiatives?
Ms. Ward: They definitely are, and if they aren’t already they probably will be soon. I like to follow these and collect ideas from them.
Ms. Delaloye: Eckles is following several other university and public libraries to steal their best ideas. As new social media form this is an experiment for everyone. Pinterest might not be around in five years or it might be the next big thing, so we are all exploring how it can work for us and learning from one another.