Tag Team Tech: Wrestling with Teens and Technology April 2014

Youth Librarians and Their Pinterest Practice

Joyce Kasman Valenza

My guess is that most of you are already aware of Pinterest’s potential for inspiring decorating, dinner ideas, and next season’s wardrobe.   For some, that’s what Pinterest looks like.

For many librarians–teen and other varieties–the Pinterest rabbit hole effect also extends to serious professional practice. In the world of youth services, it’s a serious way to connect, share, promote, and teach.  It gives your library, its services and resources serious visual presence.  And it can hook your members/users/students and bring them back to your virtual and physical space.

Pinterest is one of the social ways we connect with authors and publishers and it is also quickly becoming an important publishing platform for public and school libraries.

My Personal Pinterest Practice

Of course, I use Pinterest to collect curly hair options.  In the past couple of years, I haven’t created a bulletin board or display without a Pinterest check.  In fact, when short on time, I’d have my student volunteers do the preliminary idea shopping.

Trusted student volunteers also pinned local community news in what we called “a collage of school culture.”

I used Pinterest to store our QR codes for convenient retrieval (http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/library-qr-codes/) and to share reading suggestion engines with our English classes: (http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/reading-suggestion-engines/)

Now that I am teaching pre-service youth librarians, I see the value in modeling Pinterest practice and sharing the excitement of curating new discoveries for both personal knowledge management and for sharing with others.

My Social Media course chose books to remix from this social media reading list: http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/social-media-reading-list/

social media

Although setting up collaborative boards based on mutual follows is a little rocky at first, my Management of School Library Media Programs course regularly goes on Pinterest safaris to make discoveries for the common good and to defend their choices of effective practice with annotations.

Virtual School Library Safari: http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/virtual-school-library-safari/


School Library Standards Documents Safarihttp://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/school-library-standards-documents/

School Library Design Safari: http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/school-library-design-safari/

School Library Annual Reports (coming soon!): http://www.pinterest.com/joycevalenza/ru-575-school-library-reports-safari/

You don’t have to take my word for it. I’d like to present a few case studies of the variety of ways youth services librarians are connecting with each other and with their communities using this highly visual curation and marketing platform.

Oakland Public Library TeenZone

One of my favorite examples of public library Pinterestship is the Oakland Public Library TeenZone.  Teen Outreach Librarian, Amy Sonnie and Teen Services Department intern, Meredith Sires, currently maintain a collection of thirty-eight boards.


Amy shared the teen services department’s philosophy on emerging technologies and social media: “We prioritize experimentation and thoughtful evaluation of new technologies that we think will help inform our practice and reach new audiences.  At the time we adopted Pinterest around two years ago, it was gaining popularity, but not necessarily with teen audiences.  We saw an opportunity to try something new that might help us provide readers’ advisor in a more visually engaging way.”

At that time, the library was in the process of transitioning from their old web platform to Drupal.  The librarians needed to update reading lists and record teen culture in their space.  Pinterest seemed a great way to share the photos and to highlight aspects of the collection, and it was a far faster way to put lists together then would be possible with a formal web platform.

Within the first year, the TeenZone Pinterest audience exceeded the one they’d been building on Facebook.

Meredith shared that it wasn’t just the book lists that stuck: “We’ve had fun with names, for instance Zombie Books to Devour.  But we also began using it as a microblogging platform.  We’re using it with our annual youth Poet Laureate program and to share general YA news, for instance, the latest books to be made into films.”

Amy and Meredith spoke of trying to engage more teen users by developing boards that go along with programs: They celebrated the “five amazing 8′ x 12′ graffiti murals” created by young people live at a festival with Graffiti, Urban Arts, and Muralism (http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/graffiti-urban-arts-muralism/) and on their Exhibits and Displays board (http://www.pinterest.com/oaklandlibrary/exhibits-and-displays/), a board that highlights programs for youth in the library and out in the community.  Links to those boards are included on their print flyers that advertise the exhibits and the youth programs.

Amy and Meredith are particularly concerned about meeting the needs of their urban teen users: “With our urban audience we have to dig a little deeper. Having the Pinterest board allows us to find more diverse sources online.” They developed boards promoting urban fiction and street lit when teens requested it.

Their efforts extended to magazines as well as books: “Every year, some of the more popular teen magazines seem to fall off the Demco list, but there a ton of great teen magazines and blogs out there.  Our staff asked us, ‘What do we do when the magazines go away?’  So, we put up a Pinterest list that highlights magazine-type e-content when paper content is not available.”

The OPL Teen Picks board (http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/opl-teen-picks/) highlights teen voices relating to what’s popular right now.

Amy shares: “We collect a lot during summer. It’s great to see what they are picking, during non-school hours, not just what they’ve been assigned.  We discovered they are reading and writing positive reviews of authors like Isabel Allende and Julia Alvarez, and it gives us a pulse on what to keep in the collection.”

Amy and Meredith take excerpts from teen reviews and highlight those microblog-style. “Whenever we post their reviews, we let them know. They get to see their review, though we respect their privacy and don’t use their names.”

The Teen Career Connection board (http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/tech-career-connection/), highlights the Library’s collaborative Ready, Set, Connect program that trains kid as technology tutors and it highlights other tech career training opportunities in the Bay area community.

Amy shares: “It functions as a kind of pathfinder or resource guide for teens beyond our own programs. I like that we can display direct links to the other organizations, share digital referrals and build community connections.”

As a third party platform, Pinterest allows the librarians creative freedom and a speedy option for posting and updating growing lists: “Pinterest allows us to more than quadruple the content that we could realistically display on a website and it’s more efficient time-wise. We can manage them ourselves, without having the added bureaucracy of a having to put a list together in the right format, send it to our web administrator, have them post and edit it and make sure everything is linking correctly.  All our web administrators need to do is add a button or a link to the boards when we tell them to.  It’s really a more efficient way to add dynamic content, unless you work in a library system where all staff have permission to edit content. Very few libraries I found do that.  You do need some oversight. This is a way we get to be fun and fresh.”

The librarians consider Pinterest both a readers’ advisory and a tool to showcase their collection. “Pinterest allows us to be both dynamic and responsive to new ideas–new book awards lists, programs that we want to highlight.  It allows us to share more dynamically, more visually and to drive traffic back to our events pages, our library catalog, other posts on our library’s website or Facebook page. We get to curate and pull out our resources. Without doing a display in the library, we’re creating a virtual display that accompanies programs.  So we’re dragging traffic to Pinterest and using Pinterest to bring traffic into the library to check out items they didn’t know we had. It’s a more dynamic way to explore the catalog. Pinterest is working for us.”

The impact of Pinterest curations is felt beyond the teen audience. Colleagues who are not youth services specialists are grateful to have all those interesting links and all that YA newsaccessible in one place and they are now using to support quick readers’ advisory. “We also use it for training for when there’s no teen librarian on hand.  So any of our librarians know, if you have a teen who likes zombies, we have a Pinterest board for that.”

As for professional connections, Meredith considers the YA Chatter Board (http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/ya-chatter/) a strategy to communicate with other librarians, and to “keep us up to date as a staff.  I think it’s a big help that librarians are collaborating online—sharing group boards, pulling together the media awards.  We inform each other’s displays and promotions.”

Among Amy and Meredith’s favorites library Pinterest follows beyond the TeenZone are:

NYPL (http://www.pinterest.com/nypl/)

Fullerton Public Library (http://www.pinterest.com/fullertonpl/)

A sampling of the Oakland LibraryTeenZone Boards:

Best YA Books: OPL Staff Picks http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/best-ya-books-opl-staff-picks/

OPL Teen Picks http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/opl-teen-picks/

2014 Rainbow List—GLBTQ Books for Children and Teens http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/2014-rainbow-list-glbtq-books-for-children-teens/

2014 Youth Media Awards: Check them Out http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/2014-youth-media-awards-check-them-out/

Zombie Books to Devour . . .Life Brains http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/zombie-books-to-devour-like-brains/

Zines, Blogs, and Magazines Teens Love http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/zines-blogs-magazines-teens-love/

Hungry for more like Hunger Games? http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/hungry-for-more-hunger-games/

YA Chatter (great fodder for YA Librarians) http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/ya-chatter/

Grafitti, Urban Arts, and Muralism http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/graffiti-urban-arts-muralism/

Better Than the Movie http://www.pinterest.com/oplteenzone/better-than-the-movie/

Wendell Phillips Academy High School Archiving and Building Community Presence

K.C. Boyd is the library media specialist at the Wendell Phillips Academy High School (Chicago Public Schools). Though she had several personal and professional boards (http://www.pinterest.com/boydkc/), in September, she decided to create an account for the school.

K.C. explained that Phillips is a Chicago turnaround school . The faculty walked through the door four years ago as a team, with the task of changing the negative perception of a low-performing school. Even after winning the CPS 2013 Spotlight on Technology Award, the Phillips team continues to address the image issue.

K.C. shared: “We want to control the message and we use a blend of social media for both recruitment and image building. Pinterest is one of the ways we get the message out. And we are beginning to use it for archival purposes–for pointing to the good that is taking place in the life and academic culture of our school.”

At the beginning of February, K.C. began to build her Black History board, highlighting the achievements of African-Americans in American history. The board shares articles, lessons and video. It now has more than 250 pins and 65 followers.  It didn’t seem like anything all that new to K.C.  Every year she’d prepare a pathfinder on black history, but this one was stickier.  The staff seemed to like it.  In fact, some who weren’t Pinterest users asked for lessons.  The board helped extend interest well beyond the month of February.


So K.C. planned others; for instance, a board recognizing people and achievements in women’s history (http://www.pinterest.com/boydkc/womens-history-month/).

K.C. also co-teaches a TV production class with a colleague in the English Department.  Members of that class are beginning to pin on the Phillips in the News board (http://www.pinterest.com/auslwpahs/phillips-anouncements/), focusing on the life and culture of the school.

K.C. shares: “I introduced it around three months ago and it’s just getting started. This kind of work provides students a different perspective, asking them to consider how our school is represented to the community. They create the school announcements on their iPads, using Keynote and Pages. The students’ posts to the boards automatically feed into the Phillips Twitter page (https://twitter.com/AUSLWPAHS). The tools work well together.” The Behind the Paws board (http://www.pinterest.com/auslwpahs/behind-the-paws/) archives the student-produced video news.

She is currently helping one of the English classes engaged in a legacy project—a project that K.C. believes will have indelible impact. K.C. explained that The Wendell Phillips Academy has a rich history in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.  As the first public school in Chicago to admit African American students, the school is considered a Chicago landmark going back to the Great Migration. The new Pinterest archive will be a learning tool that celebrates that history, sharing historical background and information about Phillips’ former administrators and such notable alums as Nat King Cole, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sam Cooke, with current students and the larger community.

According to K.C.: “Pinterest is a different way to save material and tell your story.  Our presence is emerging–not as established as some other schools, but we are investing so much feeling into it.  We have a huge social media following and we plan to use Pinterest to communicate with the general public. We’re hoping it’s going to grow into something very positive in the long run. I credit the fact that I have a principal who encourages creativity and says go for it and there’s no real limitations.  When I first introduced social media to him he was hesitant, but now he has a Twitter account.”

K.C. pointed to the boards as the ones with the most current activity:

Black History http://www.pinterest.com/boydkc/black-history/

Women’s History Month http://www.pinterest.com/boydkc/womens-history-month/

Historical Pictures http://www.pinterest.com/auslwpahs/historical-pictures-and-videos/

Behind the Paws http://www.pinterest.com/auslwpahs/behind-the-paws/

Weston High School’s Beautiful Book Boards and Step-by-step Instruction for Pinterest Newbies

Alida Hanson’s wonderfully comprehensive and attractive Pinterest boards promote new books and media at Weston High School (MA) Library and inspire a new type of face-out shelving. Alida shared that kids are so busy, that free reading often falls by the wayside, they’re divorced from it.  And library stacks are not always appealing to browse through. The school has launched a sustained silent reading campaign to promote free reading and students are responding to the boards big time.

Alida shared: “They’ll go on their phone and snap a picture of our QR codes.  It’s a rare kid who knows exactly what he or she wants and will find it on their own.  But now I have some kids come in and ask for every single book on the sports board.  Pinterest is just so appealing; you want to dive in.  Kids need a visual pop.  It’s far less scary than facing the stacks.  I am someone who didn’t like Pinterest at first.  Now I think about it as a search engine and a website builder.”

So, among the Pinterest strategies Alida tried was a board of Author Portraits http://www.pinterest.com/westonhslibrary/author-portraits/. “If they find pictures of the authors, especially pictures of them when they were younger, students are more likely to make a connection with them. And, for me, working on the board introduced me to so much I didn’t know about world literature.  It was a huge learning tool.”

In collaboration with a history teacher, Alida also leads students to World History Paper Book Suggestions http://www.pinterest.com/westonhslibrary/world-history-paper-book-suggestions/Alida believes you learn a lot about your colleagues when you work together and send each other pins.

Weston HS

Pinterest Step-by-step

For those of you new to Pinterest as a readers’ advisory strategy, I asked Alida to share the step-by-step process behind her board.

“I started a Gmail account for my library and chose a password that I would feel okay sharing with other people.  I want my aides and any other librarian who might follow me in the position to take over the social media accounts. I use this account for every social media account I use for my library.

I opened a Pinterest account and named it Weston High School Library.

When my new books come in, I do a two-step process. While I build my Pinterest boards, I also build up my library’s Goodreads bookshelves, which is where the pins in my Pinterest are linked. I don’t do much with that Goodreads account, but I figure I might as well build something up now in case I do want to do something with it later.

When I have a book that I want to pin, first, I find the book in Goodreads.  I chose that because it links to reviews and many teachers and students in my school have Goodreads accounts and are familiar with the tool. I found the book in Goodreads that I want to pin.  I have already installed a “Pin it” bookmarklet from Pinterest on my browser toolbar, so when I find the book in Goodreads I click the Pin It bookmarklet and boom it’s on it’s way to being pinned.

Before it’s pinned, I have to select or create the board(s) I want to pin it to. This is where Goodreads really helps because I can read the description and other readers’ tags to decide where I want to put it. Let’s say I decide to pin a book to my existing New Fiction board.  When I hit the “Pin it” bookmarklet, I can choose that board from the drop-down menu. So I’ve pinned the book to my New Fiction board.  From reading the review in Goodreads I know it’s a paranormal romance, and I think it would be a good idea to start a Paranormal Romance board and place the title there, too.

There are two ways to create the board and pin the book to it:

1. I can go to my home page and click the “Start a new board” box in the upper left hand corner.  A box opens up where I enter a name and write a description. New board created! Then, I find the book I want to re-pin, scroll over it, and click the red Pin it button in the upper left corner. The next box holds a drop down menu of my boards, and the new Paranormal Romance board will be listed there. I select the board and the item is pinned.

2. Even easier, I can create the new board at the same time I re-pin, by scrolling over the item I want to pin, clicking the red Pin It button in the upper left hand corner, creating the new board on the next screen, and pinning the book.

You can do more fine-tuning by choosing which cover you want displayed in the big box, and arranging where the boards are on your home page.

So that’s it in a large nutshell. No doubt about it, it is time consuming. However, it makes for more dynamic access to the catalog, which is very important to me.”

I asked Alida to reflect on the Weston community’s reaction to her boards. She shared: “Some teachers with Pinterest accounts follow the boards, some use the boards to promote free reading. Students have come in asking for books that are listed together on a board. When the English department head got a look at the boards, she raved about what a great interactive tool they are to promote reading–during a school-wide faculty meeting! Lots of teachers have no idea of what you can do with social media. Some thought was silly at first, but they began to see it as an easy way to present content.”

Take a look at just a few of Alida’s examples.





social studies



Alida also uses Pinterest to support her own professional development. She collects resources for transitioning a traditional school library to a Learning Commons model http://www.pinterest.com/westonhslibrary/great-library-ideas/ and archives Great Library Ideas http://www.pinterest.com/westonhslibrary/towards-a-learning-commons/.

Other YA Pinners to Check Out

TLT: Teen Librarian Toolbox http://www.pinterest.com/tltoolbox/ Created by Karen Jensen, “for teen librarians short on time, short on money but not short on passion.”

Andrea Graham http://www.pinterest.com/4ya/ The youth culture consultant, ethnographer and information professional specializes in youth culture, trends, blogging, research and social media. She blogs at http://www.4yablog.com.

Library Ninja http://www.pinterest.com/libraryninja/ The Library Ninja lives in Arlington, Texas, and fights for truth, justice, and BOOKS.

Jen Bigheart http://www.pinterest.com/jenbigheart/ Outreach librarian in Texas, PR & Media for Austin Teen Book Festival, YA blogger, Founder of Teen Programming in Libraries

Teen Programming in Libraries http://www.pinterest.com/heather_booth/teen-programming-in-libraries-a-collaborative-boar/ Collaborative YA programming board, started by Heather Booth and connected to Facebook group discussing teen programming in libraries: http://www.facebook.com/groups/156189327798392/

YA Highway http://www.pinterest.com/yahighway/  “Writers from different corners of the globe, united by our affinity for travel, costume parties, and writing and reading young adult fiction.

Forever Young Adult http://pinterest.com/4everya/ For YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A.

Goodreads: New in young adult fiction http://www.pinterest.com/goodreads/new-in-young-adult-fiction/ “At the start of every month, we’ll post the most popular new releases in young adult fiction, the books that Goodreads members are adding to their to-read shelves!”

Bookriot http://www.pinterest.com/bookriot/ “Book Riot is dedicated to the idea that writing about books and reading should be just as diverse as books and readers are.”

For the 2014 Librarian http://www.pinterest.com/alaannual/for-the-2014-librarian/ “What do your colleagues need to know? New books, tips & tricks, professional updates, Makerspaces, diy & craft projects…”

Nashua Public Library Teen Services: UN Required Reading http://www.pinterest.com/nplteen/

Library Lesson Plans, Decorations and More http://www.pinterest.com/angelasauter/library-lesson-plans-decorations-and-more/ A wide variety of genre, award winners and special interest picks.

Christy Brennan http://www.pinterest.com/christybrenn/ Professional titles, curricular ideas, maker spacers, crafts, 3D printing projects and more.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 6.24.12 PM

South Orange Middle School Library  (Elissa Malespina) http://www.pinterest.com/somslibrary/ Resources for parents, students and other teachers.

Publisher Pinterest Boards

Epic Reads (Harper Collins) http://www.pinterest.com/epicreads/

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 6.30.10 PM

HarperTeen http://pinterest.com/harperteen

Egmont USA http://pinterest.com/egmontusa

Penguin Books USA http://pinterest.com/penguinbooksusa

Random House http://pinterest.com/randomhouse

Random House Kids http://pinterest.com/randomhousekids

Scholastic http://pinterest.com/scholastic

Simon & Schuster http://pinterest.com/simonschuster

Workman Publishing http://pinterest.com/workmanpub

 Valenza headshot, used with permissionJoyce Kasman Valenza has been a special, public and school librarian, and a library educator. For ten years, she was the techlife@school columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Valenza is the author of Power Tools, Power Research Tools and Power Tools Recharged for ALA Editions. She currently blogs for School Library Journal. Valenza is active in ALA, AASL, YALSA, and ISTE and ALISE. She speaks nationally and internationally about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She joins the faculty of Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information in January 2014.  For more information: http://about.me/jvalenza. Contact Valenza at joycevalenza@gmail.com.


Leave a Reply