Steenbock Memorial Library (SML) is the academic research library for the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Veteranary Medicine, and Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Their Pinterest profile can be found here. They have 48 followers, 26 boards, and 480 pins. They clearly state who they are (“Research library at UW-Madison”) and describe their collection well (“Collections include: Fashion, Field Guides, Gardening, Interior Design, Nutrition, Pet Care/Health, and more! Open to public”). They also include a link to the library homepage as well as their address.
During an interview with one of the reference librarians responsible for maintaining SML’s pins and boards, it became obvious that they have created a Pinterest presence that serves their needs as a library. Reference librarians at SML created a library pinterest account to highlight books in their collection. As an academic library, book covers are not always aesthetically pleasing and browsing the stacks is tedious. Although their follower count is lower, they do not focus on gaining followers, repins, or likes (typical measures of Pinterest success). SML took advantage of Pinterest as a platform to create content for other social media sites. They create a board and share it on Facebook or Twitter.
Creating a new Pinterest board is a focused task at Steenbock. First, a librarian (either a reference librarian or a reference student assistant) determines a topic for a board related to the collection. A recent example is barns. Then, the pinner finds books in the collection related to the topic, and pins images of covers with links to the UW Madison catalog. Since Pinterest has such an emphasis on the visual, librarians make an effort to find interesting or pretty book covers for pins. Librarians keep the pins on a “secret board” until they are absolutely ready to share it with the public. The result of all this work is a virtual book display, featuring different subjects in Steenbock’s collection.
The biggest challenge Steenbock faces is finding time. Two reference librarians divide social media tasks on a daily basis and spend at least an hour updating social media sites daily. Since they use Pinterest as a content creator, not social media, they do not need to devote too much time to their site. They create an average of two boards a month, a strategy they feel has been successful.
They have considered expanding their board categories to include a board with online library resources. They tried to create a Landscaping Design Resources Lib Guide, but found it too difficult to find academic resources with appealing images attached to them. Since the focus of their boards is to share a visual display of Steenbock’s collection, they have forgone this idea. They continue to pin only their own content, and do not have to be concerned about copyright infringement.
Steenbock Memorial Library is not counting followers or repins, but are happy with their results.
“This is the strategy that we’ve chosen, which may not be the best for all the libraries, but I think we’ve found worthwhile”
-Reference Librarian, Steenbock Memorial Library
Pinterest offers academic libraries a unique opportunity to create, organize, and share their own content, particularly their collections. Steenbock, along with academic libraries discussed in Pinterest in Action, has taken the Pinterest platform and molded it to fit their needs.