Pinterest in Libraries

These days, libraries and technology go hand in hand. Many libraries, from academic to public and everything in between, have embraced social media sites as a way to promote their libraries and what they can offer to their patrons. A few years ago it would have been odd for a library to have a Facebook or Twitter account; today the opposite is true. Pinterest, which has only been around for about a year (and is still invitation only), is the fastest growing social media site in the United States (Constine 2012). According to the blog libraryh3lp, the social networking site Pinterest “lets users create groupings (pinboards) of images (pins) they find on the web or upload. Users can then interact with other people’s pins and pinboards by “like”ing pins or by following pinboards” (2012). Some popular and common pinboards on the site have themes of cooking, favorite books, products, crafts, clothing, and more. Recipes, tutorials, blogs, websites, and many more kinds of information are being shared worldwide.

Not only are individuals using the site as a virtual pinboard, but businesses, universities, and libraries are as well. Pinterest has become a great way for all kinds of libraries to promote their services. An article by lists 20 ways libraries are using Pinterest, all of which fall into one of two categories. Pinboards created are either promoting what the library has to offer or are sharing ideas (such as programs and book displays) with other libraries. The children’s librarian at the public library I work at uses the site to find crafts and program ideas for the children’s room. David Lee King, known author and web blogger about emerging technologies started an experiment at his library with Pinterest, giving it a trial run to see how popular it is with their patrons. He even lists tips for other libraries to use if they are thinking about joining Pinterest. Some libraries that are using Pinterest in a variety of ways are the Delaware County District Library, the San Francisco Public Library, and the New York Public Library. Libraries are using pinboards to promote their catalogs (linking images of books to the library’s catalog), show what their staff is reading, what patrons are reading, what’s new to the library’s collection, read-a-likes, infographics and more. There is an endless list of how libraries are using Pinterest to reach out to their patrons and communities around them.

Public libraries are not the only ones who’ve discovered the usefulness of Pinterest; academic libraries are joining in as well. Last month the Association of  College and Research Libraries (ACRL) held a webcast titled “Pinterest and Academia,” looking at Pinterest and how “its potential research applications makes it a strong resource in the modern academic library tool box” (ACRL 2012). Saint Mary’s College Library of California has used Pinterest to promote its collection, and the University of Nevada Libraries use Pinterest to promote events going on campus-wide. These are just two examples of how academic libraries are using the social media site as a way to reach their patrons.

Not everyone is cheering about Pinterest, however. Pinterest’s terms of service are causing some people to have second thoughts about the site, some even deleting their accounts in response. A Scientific American blog, Symbiartic, goes into detail about why people are up in arms about the site’s terms of service, but in a nutshell, the terms state “that anything you “pin” to their site belongs to them. Completely. Wholly. Forever and for always” (Monoyios 2012). You can’t take it back after you upload an image to their site, and if Pinterest makes money off of your image you don’t have any rights to the profits (Monoyios 2012).

Pinterest has become a great site for libraries to connect virtually with their patrons and other libraries worldwide. Many libraries have uploaded pictures of their buildings and new building plans, program ideas, and archive images to share with their communities, but they need to be aware and perhaps wary of the relatively new social media site’s terms of service and what these terms could mean for them, and what they have decided to share.


ACRL. Pinterest and Academia (2012). Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) . Retrieved September 25, 2012

Constine, Josh. Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever -comScore (2012, February 7). In TechCrunch. Retrieved September 15, 2012

Dunn, Jeff. 20 Ways Libraries Are Using Pinterest Right Now (2012, March 13). Edudemic. Retrieved September 25, 2012

King, David Lee. Pinterest for Libraries – What We’re Doing (2012, March 15). David Lee King. Retrieved September 25, 2012

Libraryh3lp. Promoting Your Library Through Pinterest (2015, February 15). libraryh3lp. Retrieved September 25, 2012

Monoyios, Kalliopi. Pinterest’s Terms of Service, Word by Terrifying Word (2012, March 19).  Symbiartic, Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved September 25, 2012




8 thoughts on “Pinterest in Libraries

  1. Alexis Davis says:

    This is a trend that I have absolutely noticed. I love pinterest and use it all the time and, as a lis student, I was pretty interested in what was on pinterest regarding libraries. I quickly found that lots of libraries have pages and they are often about crafts/ideas for children’s activities or about what hot books they have in their catalog. I have also seen libraries have links to different pages on the ALA website. It’s a pretty fun trend.

    • Matt McQuillan says:

      This is a great point and I appreciate your comment. Have you seen any other organization use Pinterest in a way that could be applied to a library?

  2. Alexis Davis says:

    I’ve noticed that some businesses have contests on Pinterest. I’ve never participated in these contests but from what I understand you simply pin something from the website and by doing so, you are entered in the contest, I’m not sure how they track how someone pins something so I could be misunderstanding that. Another pinterest contest is to create a board that fits within the rules of the contest and then you will leave a link to your board on the contest page. The winnings are anything that you could win in a contest… iPads, gift cards, any product with their logo emblazoned across it : ) I think that a library could ask their clients to do something very similar like make a board with all your favorite books or a board with your favorite place to curl up with a book and then offer say… tote bags as an award. It’s definitely a way to get people thinking, involved, and excited about reading.

  3. Emily Oleniczak says:

    Alexis, I also have a Pinterest account, and have used it to see what libraries are doing with the site. I have come across a library doing a “contest” like you describe. They had patrons pin pictures of their pets “reading” their favorite books. It looked like patrons had a lot of fun with the task. Contests like this on Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media websites get people involved with their library virtually, not just physically with programs at a library.

  4. Jessica says:

    As one who never jumped on to the “bandwagon” when cool things come into style, I must admit Pinterest is something I’ve resisted for a long time, even though I know it’s ridiculously cool. I tell myself it’s because I don’t have time for fb much less ANOTHER social media website, but after reading this, I think I just may. The terms of use are frightening if you’ve some intellectual idea worth stealing, but luckily for me, I’ve never been that creative. However, it does seem that the possible positive outcomes would far outweigh any negative ones. That Pinterest from the St. Johns County Public Lib (I think that was the right one…I closed the browser already) was ingenious. What an incredible way to get patrons (p)interested (haha) in their County’s Public Library? I, for one, am probably going to be jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon. Thanks for such a great review, group 3!

  5. Mandi King says:

    Well, I “was” interested in Pinterest until I read their scary Terms of Service agreement. So basically, any creative work of my own that I choose to pin becomes property of pinterest?! Not cool, Pinterest, not cool. I imagine a lot of Pinterest users don’t even realize this because like many users they probably just click “I agree” without really reading the details. That’s unfortunate indeed because I can see the benefit in using a site like Pinterest. One of the librarians that I work with was recently looking for experience zone ideas on there and found a few that were of interest. I might still use it to browse for ideas but I would be cautious about pinning anything personal on the site. Thanks for such an informative article, Emily! Really opened my eyes 🙂

  6. Keeley Kerrins says:

    I think that it’s great that you chose to tackle Pinterest. I’m a big pinner and I find that it’s exploded in the past year. As the previous commenters mentioned, it’s a great way for libraries to reach out to their patrons. I know the Capital Area District Library (CADL) system is using it as a way to differentiate between the different libraries within their system. You can check it out here: I know it is also working great for museums/archives that are able to showcase their collections or upcoming exhibitions. I know the Smithsonian has done this to great effect.
    I think it’s also great that you commented on the copyright issue. I know that there is a concern that Pinterest is stealing people’s images in perpetuity, but it’s also important to note that it’s individuals are stealing the images from their peers too. I know several bloggers who are upset that pinners steal their images without attribution. As a matter of courtesy, there has been a big move to use links and hashtags when re-pinning. A really interesting topic, Emily!

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