I will be the first person to admit that I am a sucker for a well photographed “readers’ scene” on Instagram. You know that perfectly orchestrated cozy shot of a book next to a succulent or a mug of tea. It’s all about the aesthetic, and frankly for me, the more minimalist the better. And more often than not, I’ll give the photo a “like” and maybe save the image for future reference. (Can we take a minute to appreciate the save/bookmark feature on IG?!) To be honest, this is how I get most of my personal readers’ advisory done – Instagram. It certainly helps when someone comes in and asks “I’m looking for a book, it’s cover is green with a girl on it”.
So let’s talk about Instagram and how libraries are using it, but more importantly how it’s being used for readers’ advisory. Based off my extensive research aka. scrolling through my IG feed, most libraries use their accounts to promote their programs and services. And why not? It’s a great promotional tool and it’s a way to show your programs in action. But in terms of RA methods, various reading campaigns, such as Book Face Fridays (read this nice little piece in the New York Times), are popular ways to attract readers. Furthermore, campaigns provide consistency with a library’s IG content through its context, aesthetic, and schedule. A great example for consistent content is NYPL where almost every day basically has a scheduled theme.
In January, Surrey Libraries launched the #ReadersUnite campaign where staff members shared their current reads and encouraged patrons to also share their titles under the same hashtag. Another great example is when readers, libraries, publishers, and bookstores gathered together for Freedom to Read Week. Campaigns not only create participation amongst staff and patrons, but also connections to wider communities for larger causes.
But, one thing I’ve noticed that isn’t been as frequently used is the Instagram Stories function. While I will admit that I was initially skeptical of Snapchat’s copycat cousin, it has grown on me and frankly I think it’s better in terms of “business”. For one, your audience is already there, no need for a separate account. Two: it can reach a wider audience. Three: it has a hands free option! Four: it’s 15 seconds instead of 10! Currently, a few libraries including Surrey Libraries has been using IG Stories to provide branch tours or to show off some programs. But, why not use this opportunity to have staff members create quick little book chats/slams on their current favourite titles? Or reach out to your patrons and audience by maybe asking for recommendations. For example, if you’re setting up a display, ask them to send in their favourite titles. Let’s remember that RA can work both ways. If your library has a RA service like a book blog or a readers’ advisory request form, show it off using IG stories. Perhaps you have patrons who may not know of these services, so a quick live demo might attract some new users.
When you’re finally ready to post a story, use all the fun options such as filters, doodles, text, geotags (great for promoting branches!), stickers, and emojis. Also remember that stories are quick and take minimal time crafting, so no need to worry about creating that “perfect” IG photo. Make it fun and do you!
This week, we’ve been testing out some BCLA RAIG Book Chats on our IG account and hopefully it’s something we can continue. So check them out!
I hope that this post had some helpful tips on using Instagram for readers’ advisory. Try creating an IG story and chat about your latest reads. Share what’s been working for you and your library.
Stephanie Hong, Casual Library Technician for Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library