A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

While library Instagram feeds share images of programs in action, memes that make you chuckle, smiling library staff members, and striking images of the building and grounds, the majority of posts are focused on books. Whether it be new books that just arrived, a fresh book display, pets posing with books, or book recommendations (to name a few!), libraries are finding ways to showcase materials to patrons. Recently, I’ve found that many libraries are tagging authors, illustrators, and publishers in the comments section of the post or in the image itself. At first glance this may seem commonplace given the constant sharing and tagging that goes on within the platform, but in light of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report and YALSA’s Social Networking Toolkit, the action has an important impact.

The Futures report explains that today’s library staff have the tools to meet teens where they are and must help them develop multiple literacies that extend beyond the library’s physical space. Listed in the report are seven ways that we can help teens gain media literacy skills as presented by Renee Hobbs at the Summit on the Future of Library Services and Teens. As suggested by the list, getting teens to think about how they interact with media can help them analyze what they consume and make good choices with regard to what they listen to, read, and watch. Library staff can help teens research personal interests and gain skills that will help them analyze and interpret messages, create content, as well as share ideas and represent themselves in the future. In terms of social media specifically, the Social Networking Toolkit states that the act of creating a social media profile, writing content and comments, and editing content develops reading and writing skills. Learning how to use social media tools in a safe environment will allow teens to develop boundaries and expectations when using social platforms, demonstrate a commitment to learning, feel empowered, and see library staff and teachers as positive role models for navigating social media. The Social Networking Toolkit provides an example in which a teen follows an author’s blog or Twitter feed as the author reflects on his or her writing and reading experience. The student can then use the author’s social media account as both a platform for research and a way to communicate with the author.

Taking all of this into consideration, a library that tags an author, illustrator, or publisher in an Instagram post can have an important, positive impact on teens. In their social media profiles, most authors provide a link to their website which frequently contains links to blogs, book lists, other content of interest, and additional social media accounts. By tagging an author or illustrator in a post, libraries are providing a way for teens to discover more about the authors they enjoy, engage in digital and media content, encounter new social media platforms, and develop skills they will need in the future. Similarly, tagging a publisher acts as a form of readers’ advisory by providing teens with access to lists of books they may enjoy. Providing a direct link to authors, illustrators, and publishers in Instagram photos or in the comments section is one way to connect teens to outside resources that give them an opportunity to explore personal interests and develop multiple literacy skills.

The images included in this week’s post are examples of how libraries have Instagrammed books within the last few weeks. Colorful spring book displays are popping up as well as Literary March Madness contests and readers’ advisory posts.


About Meaghan Darling

Meaghan is the Youth Services Librarian at the Sparta Public Library in Sparta, New Jersey.

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