What’s your Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media platform similar to a digital bulletin board, where users can share images from all over the web. It is, according to the About page: “…a Virtual Pinboard. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

With well over 100 million users in 2012, it is also one of the fastest growing social media site ever. Launched in 2010 and still in beta, it reached 11.7 unique users in early 2012, according to comScore.com (Constine, 2012). Constine calls it “blow-dryer growth”, because the users pushing it are “18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland” (Constine, 2012.)

Figure 1 Pinterest Growth. Retreived from http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/pinterest-monthly-uniques/

Users spend, on average, about 98 minutes per month on the site, browsing, pinning, repining, and discovering new ideas.

How does Pinterest work?

The newbie, especially one who is more textual than visual, may have a hard time understanding what the fuss is about. When a person enters the site for the first time it seems to be a jumble of images that have absolutely no relation to any of the other images on the site.

Figure 2: Pinterest main page accessed June 23, 2012

Nature photography, silly signs, food, crafts, tree houses (!) all arranged side by side with no apparent connection to each other aside from the fact that they’ve been pinned, repinned and liked by many different users. Each pin includes the source of the pin (a website where someone originally discovered it) and, in the case of repins, the original board and user links where the repinner found it.

In order to sign up, a potential user must either be invited by a current user or request an invitation from Pinterest. A new account has to be linked to either an existing Facebook or Twitter account; there are no exceptions to this. Once linked, the new user gets the opportunity to choose their likes and interest from a list and off they go. Pinterest suggest a first group of users to follow, but it is easy to discover more content than a person has time to digest.

The pins are grouped into boards. Pinterest suggests several based on the user’s likes and interests, which she can change or add to.

How are libraries using Pinterest?

Pinterest and libraries are a perfect fit, allowing libraries to share images of their collections, events, physical space and much more.

Archives are using the site to share their collections and linking to others. Among many fantastic examples are:

Academic Libraries have also gotten into the Pinterest game, including Wayne State University (http://pinterest.com/wsuslis/.) Other examples include:

  • Ashland University’s IRC (http://pinterest.com/ircaulibrary/) is a Pinterest power user, with 36 boards and 600+ pins. Their boards include photos of the library, campus, signs, QR codes, summer books and more.
  • The University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library (http://pinterest.com/uofslibrary/), which has boards for a specific exhibit, their campus, the city and more.
  • The University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library (http://pinterest.com/rushrhees/) has boards for several different events, exhibits and more.

Public libraries have embraced Pinterest as a way to market their collections, programs and events.

  • The Provo City Library (http://pinterest.com/provolibrary/) in Provo, UT has an impressively active account, with 25 boards and 1189 pins. They include boards with staff picks, local events, children’s books and summer reading program, crafts, teen book trailers, eBooks and so many more.
  • The Beverly Public Library (http://pinterest.com/beverlypublic/) has a comprehensive site that highlights their collection, suggests fiction and non-fiction for all ages, and other topics of interest to their public (such as Hunger Games, Bookmaking, Fenway Park.)
  • The New York Public Library (http://pinterest.com/nypl/) is a powerhouse when it comes to harnessing social networking, and Pinterest is one of the areas where they shine. With 20+ boards, nearly 700 pins, there’s something for every library user to interact with.
  • The Flint Public Library (http://pinterest.com/fplibrary/) also has an active site and is one of several Michigan library systems using Pinterest. There are several children’s related boards, crafts, fiction and non-fiction book suggestions and more.

Libraries can use Pinterest to market themselves and to digitally curate their collections, events and programs. The most common boards across all library accounts relate to reading suggestions, images of the library’s, university’s, city’s physical spaces, and fun images about libraries, books, and reading. You can see more via my Pinterest site (http://pinterest.com/hollyanneboyer/.) Click on the Following link to see libraries of interest.

Anne Clark, a Michigan librarian and writer of So Tomorrow (http://www.sotomorrowblog.com/2012/01/pinterest-for-librarians.html), a blog filled with ideas for children’s services librarians and Pinterest site (http://pinterest.com/sotomorrow/) has many ideas on how libraries can use Pinterest.

One major issue with Pinterest

Copyright infringement is a potentially serious problem for Pinterest.  By pinning an image to a board, a user could possibly be using material in a way that violates its copyright. Pinterest has a page (http://pinterest.com/about/copyright/) dedicated to Copyright & Trademark, explaining how, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, a copyright owner can contact them to remove the image. They even offer code that a copyright owner can embed on their website to block pinning. The terms of service explain that the user is responsible for obtaining permission to upload an image to their site.

The easiest and most recommended solution for Pinterest users is to only upload images they own, which seriously comprising the entire purpose of the site – to, as I said above “share all the beautiful things you find on the web” (http://pinterest.com/about/.)

Realistically, users will, if challenged, rely on the fair use defense, which “mediates between the property rights in creative works and the First Amendment rights of others to express themselves by reference to those copyrighted works” (Falkenberg, 2012.) To protect users, Falkenberg suggests that Pinterest should change the “Describe your pin…” text box prompted when pinning an image to “Comment on your pin…” This would allow users to “[make] the argument that they are expressing a view on the original work — and thus are entitled to the fair use defense…” (Falkenberg, 2012.)

The future of Pinterest for libraries

If libraries learn how to exploit the various social networking opportunities out there, they will be able to attract more and engage current users. Pinterest is a relatively new medium that has great potential for libraries. It allows interaction with users through sharing and allowing users to share and contribute. The visual aspect is very attractive and easy to browse. If something looks interesting, a user can click and learn more. It’s easy and intuitive. A library can showcase its collection, programs, and services and promote those that may otherwise go unused.

Pinterest definitely has a place within a library’s the social networking campaign.

Infographic from Crook, 2012
Pinterest Data You Can’t Ignore: The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest [infographic]


Crook, Jordon (2012, March 14). This is everything you need to know about Pinterest (Infographic).  Retreived from http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/14/this-is-everything-you-need-to-know-about-pinterest-infographic/

Constine, Josh (2012, February 7). Pinterest hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever –comScore.  http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/pinterest-monthly-uniques/

Falkenberg, Kai (2012, March 15). A One Word Fix To Pinterest’s Legal Problem. Forbes. Retreived from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kaifalkenberg/2012/03/15/a-one-word-fix-to-pinterests-legal-problem/

Herbert, M. (2012, May). Pinterest: the newest social media phenomenon. District Administration48(5), 75. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA289119730&v=2.1&u=lom_waynesu&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

Murphy, Joe (2011, December 19) Pinterest online curation pinboard with major promise. http://joemurphylibraryfuture.com/pinterest-online-pinboard-with-promise-for-libraries/

Tsukayama, Hayley (2012, March 15). Pinterest addresses copyright concerns. The Washington Post. Retreived from http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/pinterest-addresses-copyright-concerns/2012/03/15/gIQAijAFES_story.html

West, Angela (2012, February 26). What You Should Know About Pinterest and Copyright. PCWorld. http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/250700/what_you_should_know_about_pinterest_and_copyright.html