One of the best things about using Pinterest for me is that I never know when inspiration for library programming is going to strike. Whether it happens when I'm actually surfing through my feed of pins from boards I follow (and following a diversity of interests is key here) or when I'm combing through my RSS feed in the morning, I invariably find ideas that would make great programs. But how do you use Pinterest when you are actively trying to plan specific programs, particularly with Teen Read Week in mind?
The first use for Pinterest is as a visual board to present pre-curated ideas, one I use quite frequently with my Library Advisory Board when we are discussing possible ideas for special events. When we planned our Night of Writing Dangerously last year (an evening where kids came to do nothing but eat and write in a fun environment), I first projected my Writing Tips & Tricks Board as inspiration for their thoughts. Not only did my students have fun picking out the t-shirts and mugs that would become our prizes, but the infographics and tips had them asking if volunteer teachers could be "grammar police" someone could flag down with a question, or if we could use one of our glass walls to chart the rise and fall of a short story. My Hunger Games Library Programming Ideas Board absolutely made our party when the first movie came out (over half our school came to it) since it enabled students to plan Capitol hair and make up stations, Wii archery tournaments, and a Facebook Profile picture corner with life-size cardboard cutouts of the actors - and I owe it all to Pinterest.
Adding students or other faculty (or librarians) to a collaborative board is a terrific way of putting the power of idea generation in their hands. YALSA traditionally adds members of the Teen Read Week committee to the Teen Read Week 2013 Board and you can see the theme of "Seek the Unknown" played out largely in the areas of science fiction and mystery-related pins, the two pieces the majority of librarians identify as their intended focus for next week. Many minds are usually superior to a measly single mind, so collaborative boards often build off each other, and you can set your account to notify you by email when someone else pins to the board in question. There have been many instances that I see what someone pinned in an email notification and it makes me think of a whole new search term to try, a fact which brings us to our next (and most crucial) point regarding Pinterest.
Finding the Good Stuff
To be a librarian on Pinterest is like being the duo of Strunk and White at a slang convention - you're going to go a little crazy at the flagrant disregard for an established system. Yes, some people adequately describe their pins or even use hashtags, but let's be honest, when you are pinning it just for yourself on your board, even librarians who got "A"s in their cataloging class will hit that Pin button without adding terms that would help someone find the pin if they were searching.
You need to remember to breathe. This casual approach to pinning seems like a gigantic wall when you have something specific in mind (like mystery themed programming), but the secret is do not search for pins. I know that seems counterintuitive; it's Pinterest, right? What the heck else are you going to search? In actuality though, searching for Boards or Pinners is far more likely to get you the results you want than searching inadequately described individual pins.
For example, a search like "Sherlock Holmes" reveals a shocking number of people (who we call Pinners) who have used this as their actual public user name on Pinterest (who knew?). Luckily for us, Pinterest clearly reveals their number of followers, so you can skim the results and look closely at the "Sherlocks" who seem to have been deemed worthy. Granted, a certain number of these will be pinners who have dedicated their lives to collecting pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch in swim trunks, but you're a librarian, you can handle it. Great jewels like the account for the Sherlock Holmes Society of France (SSHF) is a treasure trove of all things Conan Doyle, including a board for the popular BBC production.
Take a look at what is on some of these boards (and don't spend a lot of time sifting through them, your goal is to skim for related terms). Teens love the numerous quotes and memes associated with either authors or specific programs, so why use that enthusiasm to teach them how to make good ones? Resources like Quick Meme and Quozio are easy to use and give very professional results. Ponder the associated words of what is cropping up - mystery, program, 221B, games, Watson - are all related terms to examine for possible boards.
Remember also that the ideas don't have to be specific to your theme to be able to be massaged into fitting it. There are many terrific library programming boards (note also the related terms teen library programming and library adult programming). See crafting ideas involving maps? Have your participants create a Google map of all the places in England Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries, or do a paper craft using actual maps of England. If you have T-shirt crazed teens, teach them how to use bleach pens to make their own Sherlock designs, whether it's quotes or iconic images like the profile in deerstalker hat or a magnifying glass. So many ideas can be morphed into programs that work for your chosen theme and you'll end up looking brilliant for coming up with them. Pin those puppies onto a board and present to your students or fellow librarians for feedback.
Remembering Pinterest Is Not the End, It's the Beginning
A common failing in using Pinterest is that it becomes insular. You only look at Pinterest for ideas and this can become frustrating as the same pins cycle through board after board. Remembering to click through on interesting pins for the origin yields not just more information, but allows you to see what else might be on that site that could prove helpful. Google's Blog search feature has always been a huge help for me in thinking about programming and most of the good ideas I read about in my RSS feeder each morning get posted to my Pinterest Library Programming Board or my Crafting Ideas Board. I also find Etsy.com to be an unending source of inspiration, both for prizes and for crafting ideas, so don't shy away from retailers. Even if you aren't buying something, their product can be a jog to your creative mind when it comes to finding the perfect program.
In thinking about Teen Read Week this year, consider using Pinterest as another helpful tool to fuel your creativity in coming up with programming ideas that will fit your audience perfectly. It's a powerful tool to help you curate good ideas and generate new ones to make your Teen Read Week (or any other week) fabulous in your library.
Courtney Lewis is the Director of Libraries at Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School in Kingston, PA. She feels she has the best job as she gets to work with great students and faculty, play with technology, teach information literacy and talk about books all day long. When not spending way too much time on Pinterest and calling it "work," Courtney also chairs the 2013-14 Teen Read Week Committee.