Course:LIBR559M/Pinterest as a Promotional Tool for Public Libraries

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See also LIBR559M class projects 2013

This is a group presentation for LIBR 559M: Social Media for Information Professionals, an online course offered by the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The wiki aims to introduce and explore the use of Pinterest as a promotional tool for public libraries.

Contributors: Amanda Awakuni, Alyssa Feir, Ariana Galeano Garcia.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to create and manage images collections based on different themes.[1] Users can add images from their computers or use the pin-it button available for download to add images from websites to their collections.[1] Users can also browse other users collections and like and re-pin images from those collections.[1] A pin is an image added to Pinterest and each pin added to a collection links back to the source of the image.[1] Collections of pins are known as boards which can be created on any theme or topic.[1] Users can also follow other users or particular boards which allows them to see any changes and addition of pins to those collections.[1] Comments can also be added to pins and follow buttons can be added to blogs and websites.[1]

How Libraries Are Using Pinterest

Businesses and other organizations are also using Pinterest to share ideas and information and to promote their services.[2] Libraries, in particular public libraries, are using Pinterest to promote the resources and services they offer to their particular communities.[2]

There are various ways in which libraries use Pinterest to promote their collection, services and community collaboration. According to Dunn[2] and the writer staff at Online College[3] there are twenty particular ways in which libraries are using Pinterest:

  1. Pinning book covers
  2. Reading lists
  3. Promoting library activities
  4. Sharing and collecting ideas for displays
  5. Showcasing historical archives
  6. Sharing new acquisitions
  7. Facilitating research
  8. Encouraging young readers to read more
  9. Building a community of libraries
  10. Creating areas of collaboration with the patrons
  11. Helping patrons start book clubs
  12. Sharing crafts projects
  13. Showcasing learning-related infographics
  14. Getting inspired for library programs
  15. Collecting learning materials for parents
  16. Highlighting library staff members
  17. Offering access to digital collections
  18. Sharing and getting ideas for reading programs
  19. Highlighting the local community
  20. Sharing pictures of the library

Pinterest enables libraries to connect and interact with patrons and create a community of libraries. All of these uses are focused on promoting the library's collections, services, and events.

Promoting Collections

Libraries are using Pinterest to promote their collections, which can be a great way to attract readers to materials they might have missed on the shelves. There are a number of different approaches a library can take depending on the communities they are serving and what their needs are. One example is the Edmonton Public library, they created three boards based on patron groups: EPL 100 Great Books - Baby, EPL 100 Great Books - Toddler, EPL 100 Great Books - Preschoolers. Another way to approach promotion of collections is to focus on particular subjects. These subjects can be about anything that might interest the community such as bestsellers, books made into movies (which can also promote movies based on books), reading club suggestions, local interest, etc. Oakridge Branch (Vancouver Public Library), for example, has formed several boards based on subjects that create interesting reading lists such as: Yuletide Fun!, Titanic: 100th Anniversary, Glamourously Gothic . Libraries can also highlight recent acquisitions like Carnegie-Stout Public Library and their Just arrived! board.

Promoting Facilities and Services

Libraries can also use Pinterest to promote the services and space they offer to the community. Fullerton Public Library, for example, has a board titled FPL that includes pins featuring the library’s facilities, a video about their expansion project, as well as a pin of the newly opened Greenhouse Cafe that includes the hours of operation. Carnegie-Stout Public Library has a board called Around the Library where they showcase their facilities, as well as archival images of the building. It provides a very interesting view of the library building’s history. Hamilton Public Library provides another example of how to promote library facilities. They have created a Branches board that includes images of their branches, a brief history of each branch, and link to the branch page on the Hamilton Public Library website. As Pinterest is a visual medium, it can showcase library study spaces, reading rooms, children and teen zones, and conferences rooms. Buffalo and Erie County Public Library also has a board that works as a visual tour of their central library branch.

Pinterest can also be used to promote services such as computer help, access to digital collections, audiobooks, and mobile libraries. An example of this is Fullerton Public Library’s Technology board in which the users can find useful information and tips related to different types of information technology. St. John’s County Public Library has a board dedicated to their bookmobile service in addition to a e-Books, e-Readers, and Technology board that promotes access to their digital collection and tips on how to use e-readers and other information technology.

Promoting Events

Another way to use Pinterest to further give publicity to the library is to promote events that are happening in the library. Pins stay up after the event and can serve as an archive of past events and also the type of events patrons can expect from the library. It is important to give the time, date and location of an event in the pin caption, as well as to link back to the library website where they can get more information if needed. New York Public Library has a board dedicated to NYPL's Current Events which include author events, film screenings, exhibitions, and festivals. Fullerton Public Library has a board Authors @ FPL in 2013 that is dedicated to author events and also a board called Events at FPL, dedicated to more general events. Carnegie-Stout Public Library has a board called Movie Night @ C-SPL. In this board description they direct users to their events website for more information. Originally the images pinned to this board were from Google Images, but as of 6 months ago they started pinning images from their movie night website.


While public libraries using Pinterest to promote their programming and collections will be largely pinning original content, it is important to be aware of current copyright concerns surrounding Pinterest. In early 2012, the social media website came under fire for its Terms of Service and copyright concerns. One of the main issues was the way in which Pinterest made a copy of pinned images to the website rather than linking to the source image.[4]

In February 2012, as a response to these concerns, Pinterest added a piece of code to their help page, which can be added to a website to prevent its images from being pinned.[5] When a pin attempt is made, the user will receive the following prompt: "This site doesn't allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!"[1] In May 2012, Pinterest partnered with Flickr to create automated attribution for items pinned from the photo sharing website. The attribution statement cannot be edited. Automatic attribution now extends to images pinned from YouTube, Vimeo, Behance, 500px, Etsy, Kickstarter, SlideShare, and SoundCloud.[6] In addition, Pinterest introduced a 500-character caption limit in an effort to prevent users from copying entire blog posts.

Pinterest is compliant with the Digital Content Millenium Act.[7] Content creators can notify Pinterest of copyright infringement through the site’s Copyright Infringement Notification page.[8]

Copyright Questions

Hansen, Nowlan, and Winter developed copyright questions for the University of Regina Library to determine whether or not to pin content.[4] The questions include the following:

  • Is the work protected by copyright?
  • Do we (the library) own the copyright of the work?
  • Is the work in the public domain?
  • Is the image under a Creative Commons license?
  • Is the use covered by one of the library’s licenses?
  • If the work is protected by copyright, does the use fall under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act?
  • Is the content creator using Pinterest? [4]

These questions are useful for users to consider before pinning an image. If a user is in doubt about whether or not a pin will infringe copyright, err on the side of caution.

Best Practices

It is important for libraries to employ a strategy for their Pinterest account. Following a set of guidelines will allow libraries to make the most of their pinboards and effectively promote their collections, facilities and services, and events.

  • Use the profile area to define your Pinterest presence. This will let users know what to expect from your Pinterest activity.
  • Provide a brief description of each individual board. Patrons can use this information to choose which boards they want to follow.
  • Link to library website as well as other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or the library blog in your profile.
  • Pin items directly from your online catalog. Include a brief description along with author name, title, and call number of pinned resources. This makes it easy for patrons to access the item.
  • Plan boards. figure out the focus before you create them and have images in mind so that you can fill them right away—at least five images are need to fill a board’s cover.[9]
  • Stay active. take a few moments each week to pin new content to keep followers interested.
  • Use large, clear images. You want your pins to stand out. Pinterest will resize images to 192 pixels wide, but when a user clicks on the thumbnail the image will be displayed at its maximum size up to 600px. Be sure that the image does not infringe copyright.[10]
  • Protect patron privacy. If you post images of a public event or library facilities, be sure to get permission from featured individuals.[4]

Public Libraries on Pinterest

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Pinterest [Internet]. Available from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dunn J. 20 Ways Libraries Are Using Pinterest Right Now. Edudemic [Internet]. 2012 Mar 13 [cited 2013 Jan 28]. Available from:
  3. Staff Writers. Ways Libraries Are Using Pinterest Right Now. Edudemic [Internet]. 2012 Mar 1 [cited 2013 Jan 28]. Available from:
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Hansen K, Nowlan G, Winter C. Pinterest as a tool: applications in academic libraries and higher education. Partnership: the Can J Libr Info Practice and Research. 2012;7(2)
  5. Pan J. Sorry, Pinterest users: websites can now block pinning [Internet]. New York City: Mashable; 2012 Feb 20 [cited 2013 Jan 31]. Available from
  6. Documentation: Attribution Statements : Help Center [Internet]. 2012 Apr 30 [cited 2013 Jan 31]. Available from:
  7. Pinterest / Copyright [Internet]. [cited 2013 Feb 2]. Available from:
  8. Pinterest / Copyright Form [Internet]. [cited 2013 Feb 2]. Available from:
  9. Thornton E. Is your academic library pinning? Academic libraries and Pinterest. J of Web Librarianship. 2012 Aug; 6(3): 164-175
  10. Wilkerson D. Infographic: The ultimate complete final social media sizing cheat sheet. Pittsburgh: LunaMetrics; 2012 Nov 12 [Cited 2013 Feb 2]. Available from: