The Super Social Library

Laura Gardner is a school librarian at Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA and was named a School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Award Finalist in 2016. Stay tuned for blog posts from Finalist Anita Cellucci and School Librarian of the Year Todd Burleson!

Why use social media?

I have been using social media in my library to connect with students, parents, teachers and the community at large for the last four years. With accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, I have multiple ways to connect with my core audiences.

The “why” of using social media for my library was easy for me to answer. We must be advocates for our programs and our libraries with all our stakeholders, but especially with students. As the biggest classroom in the school, the library offers a unique opportunity to extend the classroom into students’ homes and devices, and a great way to accomplish this is through social media.

At first it may take time to set up and get comfortable with each account, but soon you get in a groove of posting. It will happen naturally within your day-to-day, allowing greater numbers of people will know about all the great efforts going on in your library.

What to post, and where

Each social media platform has its ideal audience and purpose, which may vary depending on your community:

Facebook posts are usually viewed by parents and other teachers in our school and get the least traction of all my social media posts, although posts with pictures of students still perform well. I also use Facebook to connect professionally with other teacher librarians. Two of my favorite groups are School Librarian's Workshop and MakerSpaces and the Participatory Library.

I reserve Twitter (@LibrarianMsG) for sharing and learning from colleagues in the library/technology world.

  • I participate in Twitter chats like #mslibchat (middle school librarians, held on the first Monday of every month at 9 pm EST) and #tlchat (teacher librarians of all grades, held on the second Monday of every month at 8 pm EST) 

  • I love using Twitter for professional conferences. Twitter ends up being where I take all my notes; I can always look back at the conference hashtag to see what I (and everyone else) wrote, captured and shared.

Instagram (@dmslibrary366) has been my most helpful platform for connecting with students over the past three years, with over 800 posts and over 700 followers (mostly students). 

Examples of posts on Instagram include photos and videos of my book recommendations, MakerSpace creations, students working on research projects, book fair and other event promotions, announcements, service project photos from National Junior Honor Society, and much more.

If I find something I like on someone else’s Instagram account, I can use a separate app, Repost, to post that photo to my account (with credit, of course). To do this, just click on the small three dots in the upper right hand corner of the Instagram post you wish to Repost, choose Copy Share URL and then open up the Repost app to choose the photo and copy it back to Instagram. It’s a little clunky, but it works.

In the last month, however, students have informed me their new favorite app is Snapchat (follow me at dmslibrary366).

I attended a workshop on Snapchat for education at a recent conference, where I learned about how to create an account and follow others (easiest is by username or snapcode) but it took two 8th graders to really convince me of its value. Maddie and David showed me how to take pictures and 10 second videos to create stories, all of which disappear in 24 hours. We set up my Snapchat account in a matter of minutes and soon I was snapping away. When I post a “story” on Snapchat, it will be visible for 24 hours to all my followers. I can see in the app how many times each story was viewed and whether anyone took a screenshot of the snap. 

On Snapchat I plan to do video book recommendations, short video announcements about contests and contest winners, upcoming events, and even quick tutorials on research skills.

When and how to post

I used to post infrequently, but since starting my library’s MakerSpace in 2014, the number and frequency of posts has increased dramatically. There’s just so much going on in the library, and I want to share it all! Whether it’s student green screen projects, student 3D prints, or awesome duct tape creations, students love seeing themselves and their friends doing fun things in the library.

To keep things consistent, I put a reminder in my phone that appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 p.m. to remind myself to post on social media in case I haven’t done so already. This is a good time because the day ends at 2:05 p.m. and students are glued to their phones the minute the bell rings. Keeping it consistent ensures that my students’ feeds are filled with more than just selfies and reminds them of all the great book/maker/research related things going on in the school library. 

Other details

Get the word out about your new social media accounts by telling your frequent users, giving them handouts with all the social media accounts (you can make a printout of your Snapchat account QR code, called a Snapcode, that students can scan) and encouraging students to tell their friends. My student library volunteers are my program’s biggest advocates so I start with them. I always ask students permission verbally before taking their photo and we have an opt-out policy in our school that supports using images of students on social media. Students are never tagged in photos. Social media posts that involve students are similar to promotion via other media outlets like newspapers; when students are pictured, we are getting the word out about student accomplishments. My administrators follow my accounts and my superintendent is very active on Twitter and loves our use of social media in the library. Moreover, my library’s use of social media serves as a positive example of social media use for all stakeholders by using social media to promote literacy, collaboration, and creativity.  

Instagram has the option to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook, but it’s even better to use the app If This Then That, which will post your Instagram photos to Twitter as native photos instead of putting in a link to your Instagram post. Instagram and Twitter allow for multiple accounts within the apps so you can have a personal Instagram and a professional one on the same device (I have three!).

The most important thing is that your posts are fun, light-hearted and sound like you. Don’t overthink it. Sometimes I ask students for advice on what to post and sometimes they give it without my asking: “Ms. G, can you take a pic of this and put it on Instagram?” 

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Image via Jason Howie