Product review: OPL Teen Picks Pinterest board

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    • #2560
      Katherine Lee

      Products and services for teens within public libraries aim to engage with adolescents on their own terms to increase their respect for and, subsequently, use of the library. The key to successful YA products is encouraging youth input into library services and programs. Bolan argues that products, programs and services for teens should promote the development of adolescents by:

      • Supporting and empowering adolescents
      • Setting boundaries and expectations
      • Promoting constructive use of time
      • Encouraging a commitment to learning
      • Promoting positive values
      • Developing social competencies and
      • Fostering positive identity.

      The Oakland Public Library’s (OPL) Teen Picks Pinterest board is an example of a product that encourages youth to contribute to library services, fulfils a number of these requirements and is an interesting new approach to readers advisory.

      The board is an online space for adolescent users that encourages their discovery of new books. It is created and maintained by the YA librarians and is part of a larger program run by the library to encourage adolescent users’ involvement with the library’s programs and administration. Library staff pin images of the covers of books that have been enjoyed and reviewed by adolescents who volunteer in the library. In the caption below the image the librarians quote the written reviews produced by the adolescents and, in doing so, acknowledge their judgment and authority as reviewers. This affirmation of their opinion gives the participants a positive identity and supports their commitment to learning.

      The Pinterest page allows librarians to interact with teens in their own space and was created to foster a more dynamic and interactive YA reader advisory service. Furthermore, the Pinterest board takes RA out of the official library space and into the more casual space of social media, over which adolescents feel greater ownership. By engaging with adolescents through social media, the library is able to promote social competencies in an online space. Furthermore, while the library’s staff post images to the board, adolescents are able to take ownership of the content by pinning the books that they are interested in reading to their own boards. This encourages teens to construct self identities on social media that promote positive values. Furthermore, using social media to gather information becomes a constructive use of their time and contributes to their learning.

      There are some limitations to this product, however. As the board is controlled by library staff the recommendations from the teens are mediated. Additionally, while Pinterest allows users to comment on the images, none have been added to the items pinned by the library. This raises questions as to the success of the product in engaging adolescents in conversation around the recommended works. Furthermore, the library’s advisory service for teens currently only includes books. With the flexibility of Pinterest the library could also create boards that display DVD, video game and music recommendations to engage adolescents in their other areas of interest. Nevertheless, the OPL Teen Picks Pinterest board is an interesting new approach to RA that simultaneously encourages adolescent library users’ contribution.

    • #2614
      Will Wood

      Hi Katherine,

      I really agree with the conclusions you made here about this service needing to be taken further. It is an innovative use of the medium (I didn’t know that libraries were using social media like this and thought they were limited to a Facebook page or twitter feed) but from what you have explored here it seems that it is not as effective as they may have hoped. It is good to see that libraries are attempting to reach the users in these ways but there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on the marketing and advertising that surrounds these new tools. If the users don’t know it exists or feel they may be censored or mediated when they do use it then I don’t think it will ever really take off. It is a challenging endeavor and one that could use more support, innovation and time.

      • #2692
        Katherine Lee

        Thanks Will 🙂 I agree. There is so much scope for libraries to use social media to improve their relationship with clients. The Pinterest board is a great idea and it kind of works, but you’re right they need to market it a bit better. It would be so great to see more people using these platforms to discuss the material that is being put out there by libraries.

      • #2754
        Kate McKelliget

        Hi Katherine. Thanks for choosing to write your review on this RA! I’d never heard of it being done is such a way and it was really enjoyable to read your post. The conclusions you make were really quite great and I agree completely with Will and thought he couldn’t have worded my thoughts better! For IFN616, I am discussing the use of such interactive tools in local history library websites. Upon looking through many though, I too realised that they very rarely get used by the users. Upon writing my recommendations for IFN616, I actually statesd that a significant amount of effort should be put into marketing. Like your post points out, these sorts of products and services meet the needs of the users exceptionally well, yet they won’t know to use it if they don’t know it exists! Strangely enough, none of the literature I’ve been reading about implementing such ideas on their website discuss the idea of marketing.

      • #2761
        Katherine Lee

        Thanks for your reply Kate, I’m so glad you got something out of it 🙂
        It is a really interesting topic. More marketing is definitely needed to let users know these services exist. I also wonder, in this case, whether it is because the board is still created and maintained by the library, although it is based on recommendations from adolescents, it isn’t as appealing to the teenagers as something created directly by their peers. Teenagers probably already have their own online RA groups through tumblr and other social media sites. I think using social media to reach groups is such a great idea, but perhaps librarians need to take think more strategically about how they use it.

    • #2770
      Stacey Larner

      Do libraries utilise social media effectively? I guess it really depends, I know BCC libraries don’t. Is that through lack of interest, lack of understanding, policy, etc? This sounds really interesting Katherine and I wonder if the library did market research to see if it would be used. Mediation is probably unnecessary as pinterest already censors pinned items, but perhaps if not mediated people might pin the same item multiple times? Anyway, fascinating topic!

    • #2780
      Shannon Franzway

      Pinterest looks like a great way to deliver RA, thanks Katherine!  It does look like the board has been left alone for a while and, as you mention, there aren’t any comments on the individual pins – if the whole point of social media is engagement, I’m not convinced they’ve met the mark.  In saying that, social media is a specialised marketing skill and it’s hard to get it right, even for the ‘experts’ out there who get paid a lot for it.  I doubt most libraries would have room in the budget to pay an external provider and may also struggle to justify an inhouse resource.  Plus, the social media landscape changes quickly and keeping an eye on trends can be a full time job in itself. So, until it dawns on those with the purse strings that libraries should be given bigger budgets because of their importance within the community (!!!), I think librarians are going to have to do the best they can with what they’ve got.

    • #2842
      Steven Walker

      Hi Katherine,

      I have never heard of pintrest doing something likr this before. Most intriguing. Well done,



    • #2882
      Samantha Maddox

      Hi Katherine, what an interesting concept! As i have learnt through recent weeks, unless a library has a social media strategy they concept is dead in the water. I think this has the potential to grow it just needs to be tweaked and it sounds like know one has tried it before so there are obviously going to be things that were not yet considered, hopefully when they review the concept they will make it more user friendly. Sam.

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