Emerging Technology Planning: Using Instagram to Promote the Library


Libraries need to adapt to changes and technology for the purpose of communication, and the amazing tools of social media make this possible. Instagram is a free image-based social media curation tool that gives the user the power to collect, organize, share, and interpret content, while telling a digital story to their audience. By utilizing this curation tool it’s possible to connect, engage, and expand library communities while also highlighting and promoting areas of the library collection, events, programming, and its people.

Instagram was created in 2010 and was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Captured through an app on a smartphone or tablet, it’s used to post photos and 15-second videos which allow users to bring the visual language of digital storytelling to life with their narratives. Users can also post short captions with their photos (up to 2,000 characters) which can help in further engaging with the library community while showcasing the libraries brand. Additionally, Instagram posts integrate seamlessly with other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, with its functionality being similar to these other networks in that the user can “Like” and comment on others’ photos, using hashtags to discover and connect with like-minded users. Hashtagging photos also makes it easier for people who are online searching for specific terms to find posted photos, so if the right hashtags are used within photos, it’s possible to reach new users and to be discovered by even more users in the process. As stated on the website Tentacle Inbound, “This participation differs from other social media platforms, where it’s more about pushing OUT to your audience, rather than pulling them IN to your business and your brand”.

Other popular features of Instagram include editing features that allow users to apply digital filters to so they can edit and change the look of their images. Visual content dominates our screens today. Photos allow people to express themselves in any language. The world is fluent in photos and videos, with the platform of Instagram allowing digitally connected individuals to connect and come together, serving as a place where teens and adults can go to discover what’s new, what’s next, and what their friends are doing while providing an instant connection to a community.



By implementing and maintaining an Instagram account and continually posting new, interesting and engaging photos the library will engage with and grow followers in its community of library users.

Through Instagram photos and videos the library can showcase their spaces, displays, architecture, collections, events, staff, and users, telling a collective story of the vital role that the library plays in the community. As stated by Public Libraries Online, an Instagram account can be “a powerful marketing tool that has the potential to inspire visitors to view the library as a destination”.


People go to social media to get instant content at their fingertips. Social media is fun and popular. Around the world there are more than 500 million Instagrammers with more than 300 million daily users with people openly capturing and sharing their world in visually creative ways with one another. Instagram can thus benefit the library and the community in remarkable ways by helping it to stay current and relevant, and by allowing for people everywhere to connect and engage with each other.

Three quarter of teens (13 to 17 year olds) are online almost consistently due to having access to the Internet via smartphones. With social media naturally engaging students, an Instagram account can help them to explore and be part of the online library community as well.

The Pew Research Center Social Media Update 2016 states that 32 % of Internet users (28% of all U.S. adults) are using and engaging with Instagram, to a greater extent than the other social platforms of Facebook and Twitter, and that Instagram use is especially high among younger adults. Roughly six-in-ten online adults ages 18-29 (59%) use Instagram, nearly double the share among 30- to 49-year-olds (33%) and more than seven times the share among those 65 and older (8%), with female internet users more likely to use Instagram than men (38% vs. 26%). Roughly half (51%) of Instagram users said they access the platform on a daily basis, with 35% saying they do so several times a day.

Instagram thus plays a significant role in the lives of Millennials and Gen-Z. As they learn about the world, discover their passions, connect with friends, and find more communities to tap into, they consistently rely on visual language and storytelling.


The ways we communicate have changed so much. Humanity has had a variety of communication tools over the centuries from books, journals, and articles, to the Internet and email, electric devices and texting. In the 21st century our communication tools have underwent further sweeping changes with online ejournals, ebooks and the media-sharing platforms of websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. With such a variety of communication technologies, libraries need to establish and foster a professional online presence using media-sharing platforms to expand their online visibility, connecting with people of similar interest and making an impact in and beyond the community of library users connecting with an external audience. By becoming more skilled at communication and using new technologies, the beneficial impact on the libraries ability to acquire funding and community support could additionally greatly be affected in positive ways.


CONVINCE the Library Director and Library Board THAT BY engaging with and supporting an Instagram initiative THEY WILL expand the libraries community and visibility WHICH WILL benefit the library, its mission, staff, and community of users BECAUSE it will encourage priceless engagement and participation.


The following are informative online articles and resources:


The primary mission of implementing this social media technology is to be able to expand the libraries reach by communicating and engaging with the community of library users, and possibly extending it to more users.

The Social Media Librarian who would be the point person of this initiative would connect with library staff to inquire who would be interested in participating and maintaining an Instagram initiative. They would then develop a social media committee with interested staff and appropriate IT support staff. The committee could additionally research the experiences of other public libraries to help design the scope of the libraries Instagram initiative. Keeping up with Instagram trends is essential to better reach, and ultimately grow an audience. Great Instagram content is great for a reason–it’s fun and hip and people enjoy viewing it. And if you’re lucky, users will share it with others which will further help build the libraries brand on Instagram.

The library can then start simple by telling its story, sharing photos from its archive, behind-the-scenes photos of the cataloging room or book drop, programs and events, covers of books and displays. By beginning with posting at least once a day, the library will build an audience, gaining a valuable online presence. Also, by following other libraries and library lovers we can further our online Instagram community. By using this new technology and engaging with library users, this effort will keep the library relevant and up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends.


With Instagram being a free platform, all we really need is the Social Media Librarian and any interested staff member to share their creativity and a few minutes a day to make meaningful, fun, and lasting connections with the community. But, to be truly effective using social media connections, graphics, caption copy-writing, conversation, and photography skills should strive to be, positive, professional, and on point.  Staff participants will need to teach themselves such skills. Perhaps even providing training sessions for those interested in participating and contributing to the curated posts. Using social media for library, literacy, book, and program promotion is all about storytelling, and we would want the libraries feed to be influential, personal, relevant, humorous, and educational.


Once the Library Director and Library Board has approved the initiative, the Social Media Committee will be created which will include the Social Media Librarian, the Digital Services Librarian, and at least one member of the IT staff. If other staff members show interest and commitment in participating they can be included as well.

  • Begin a 2-3 month organizational and preparation time period prior to launching the Instagram account
  • Research relevant and popular hashtags to be used in our own campaigns from free online programs like IconoSquare or Websta. It’s been established that some popular hashtags for libraries are: #libraryshelfie #bookstagram #librarylife #librariesofinstagram #libraries #librariestransform #bookface #bookfacefriday #libraryinmyhand #librarianwardrobe #librarianstyle
  • Establish types of posts the library will use to engage the community of users
  • Look at what other libraries were following
  • Create video book promotions staged as mini-commercials, trailers, or as book talks
  • During this preparation time ask staff to participate in a contest to determine the libraries Instagram name
  • Begin to market the account by preparing an announcement that will to go out in the libraries email newsletters, on all of the program flyers, and on the website




Get staff involved! Let everyone take turns taking a week to promote the library and providing Instagram content. This will expand the richness of what the library offers by sharing what the people of the library do, information about the collection and programs, who the community partners are, and what services the library offers to the community.


Through information sessions, staff who have interest in taking on the responsibility will dive into the Instagram community getting involved, commenting, following, and liking other library’s photos, and even other Instagramers and people in the community as well. With a willingness and passion to post the library will create a fun and encouraging online environment that will translate into the account, and hopefully people will see this and follow us.


The library will announce the account in our email newsletters, on our program flyers, and on our website homepage. We’ll also make social media bookmarks to put in our patron’s holds, and place them in strategic locations around the library so our library patrons will see them and hopefully pick them up and read them. We’ll also pass them out at author events and programming, and of course use all of our other social media accounts to announce that we are starting an Instagram account as well. We’ll place the social media icon on our email signatures too. There is also word of mouth. We’ll ask staff to spread the word and tell their friends, family, and coworkers. We’ll engage our community of patrons and tell them that we’ll have this account and we’re using it to share events and special moments that happen within our library. We’ll also have the social media committee reach out into the local community to post pictures outside of the library.

We can also begin to follow other library Instagram accounts by liking a lot of pictures and commenting on them. Libraries are changing today and we need to develop and except new ways of reaching out to our community, and just being on a platform like Instagram is a testament to that. So collaborating and reaching out to fellow libraries in our system or just in general, and being open to working on projects together is a good thing to do.


Once the account is up and running, staff will make a point to log what trends and posts are the most popular, and which ones have the most interest. By managing the account we’ll make sure that there are consistent posts that the public find engaging.


Instagram is a very important social media platform that libraries can easily utilize and populate showcasing what’s going on in the library with fun photos which can result in ways to engage and expand our community of users. It also has the power to build awareness by fostering a community of library lovers, and reaching out and engaging a younger generation of readers. Millennials and teens are the future of the library so we must engage with them where they are. By taking the time to build a community where they hang out the library will be ensuring that the library’s community never stops growing, remaining relevant to its community of users.



And, A. K. (2016, January 01). Amanda Kraft. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from http://crln.acrl.org/content/77/1/10.full

Becker, T. (2016, March 09). How and Why 13-24 Year-Olds Use Instagram. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from https://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2016/01/how-why-13-24-year-olds-use-instagram/

Greenwood, S., Perrin, A., & Duggan, M. (2016, November 11). Social Media Update 2016. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/

Holzer, M. (2016, April 28). 20 Ways to Make People Fall in Love With Your Instagram: A Guide for Libraries and Other Cultural Institutions. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/12/23/20-ways-make-people-fall-love-your-instagram-guide-libraries-and-other-cultural

Horizon Report (2016): http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf

How To Build A Massive Following On Instagram – Shopify. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2017, from https://www.shopify.com/blog/14288561-how-to-build-a-massive-following-on-instagram

Libraries of Instagram. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/06/libraries-of-instagram/

Measuring Progress. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2017, from http://tametheweb.com/2008/04/15/measuring-progress/

Seiter, C. (2016, July 25). How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/instagram-grow

10 Tips for Small Business Instagram Success. (2016, October 04). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from http://tentacleinbound.com/articles/10-tips-smb-instagram-success

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *