Love Your Library? Pin it!

Pinterest, a popular social media site, allows users to follow boards that they find interesting.  You pin ideas or repin ideas that you like; every time someone comments, likes, or repins your posts, ideas and users make connections.  It’s a great way to find ideas, quotes, photos, projects–nearly anything you can imagine–and it’s an excellent resource for libraries.

Libraries began using Pinterest almost at its inception, making them some of the first and most effective users.  Basically, Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board.  Libraries can create one or more boards; often, they differentiate boards for different topics or departments.  For example, the New York Public Library has a variety of boards, including ones for current events and holidays, as well as subject-specific boards, including a board for wedding ideas.  Boards vary from the highly social, community-building and marketing focused, to the highly useful, including boards that may actually help patrons find links to resources.  Other libraries, such as the Westerville Library, have extensive collections of boards, including boards for Staff Picks and quotes about reading.  Libraries clearly use Pinterest in a variety of ways–to market programs, services, and collections, to inform patrons of upcoming events, resources, and community events, etc.–but at its heart, Pinterest is about sharing ideas and images and creating community.  It’s a vital tool that is easy to use, fun, and current.

The Downside

There are several limitations to Pinterest.  First of all, it’s really for images and videos, so it’s not conducive to conducting in-depth conversations.  It isn’t a blog and shouldn’t replace one.  Also, since it is so visual, it’s important that images and videos have pizazz, or they’ll be overlooked or ignored.  Finally, copyright must be observed–it’s in a sort of fair-use gray area, so it’s important that libraries observe copyright limitations when posting material.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about how libraries are using Pinterest.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

While Pinterest is not an effective stand-alone technology, it is a supplemental social media site that libraries may use to help connect with patrons.  Based upon the user community served, it may be a very effective community-building, relationship-building tool that libraries may choose to use to enhance marketing and create relationships with the user community.  It’s definitely a resource librarians should keep in mine when selecting technologies.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

Pinterest directly relates to library work as it is a technology that libraries may use to establish relationships, connect with patrons, and market services, events, and resources.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Boyer, K.  (201).  Using Pinterest @ the library.  Public Libraries Online.  Retrieved from

Drittler, L.  (2015).  Pinterest for libraries: Building community through social media.  TechSoup.  Retrieved from

Rummel, J.  (2012).  How to use Pinterest for your library.  Voya.  Retrieved from

Szkolar, D.  (2012).  Pinterest: A new social media opportunity for libraries.  Information Space.  Retrieved from



Print-on-Demand: Every Book, its Printer?

Not every book is a best-seller, and not every thesis is destined to be a page-turner.

I am reminded this fact almost daily when cataloging items, particularly theses, that are about obscure or incredibly specific topics–I wonder how the purchase of the item, not to mention its physical occupation on a shelf or in a shelf-management system, can possibly be justified given its narrow scope.  Ultimately, it isn’t my call to make–I’m one small cog in a much larger machine dedicated to fulfilling customer orders, and so these books move on toward their ultimate destinations.  But still, I wonder at the utility and sense of their initial costs and the expenses incurred in their storage and management, and there are definitely times that I wonder if certain items will ever be checked out even a single time in their lifespan at a library.

Collection development and management is a science and an art involving data collection, statistical analysis, and patron surveying tempered with  a great deal of plain old educated guessing about what readers will want or need to read.  I realize that’s a gross oversimplification of the activity but it is, at is core, true.  Anyway, I’m not here to create a treatise on the process of managing a collection, but to discuss a technology that has the potential to change its face in some pretty exciting ways–on-demand printing.

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand technology is exactly what it sounds like–technology that allows readers to select, print, and bind books on demand in a short period of time for a low cost.  Print-on-demand machines can be purchased outright or installed under agreement in book stores, schools, or libraries–virtually anywhere interested in hosting a location.  Users select a title from available databases of out-of-print, obscure, or sometimes even in-copyright materials, pay a reasonable fee, and wait for the machine to print and bind their book.  Print-on-demand technology can also be used as a means of self-publication.

Advantages of Print-on-Demand

Multiple public libraries are using print-on-demand technology, including the New York Public Library, University of Utah, University of Michigan, Darien Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Sacramento Public Library, and the Riverside County Library (Szkolar, 2012).  Print on demand:

  • Provides low-cost, instant access to means of self-publication,
  • Provides access to texts used in classes,
  • Provides access to ebook alternatives,
  • Provides access to out-of-print or obscure materials,
  • May help readers access books in a preferred language.  (Szkolar, 2012)

Print-on-demand is particularly useful in the context of collection development and management as it helps support one facet of patron-driven acquisitions.  According to Dorotea Szkolar, “by giving the users the ability to print and request what they want instead of having library staff predict, sometimes erroneously, avoids large unused physical collections taking up large spaces within the library” (2012, para. 5).  This, in turn, saves space, time, and money–all precious commodities for the library.  Print-on-demand also may extend the lifespan of some lesser-known, low-demand items that may otherwise stay out of print and be lost to time.

Concerns About Print-on-Demand

There are, of course, concerns about print-on-demand technology.  It is expensive–most sources list prices for machines ranging from $125,000-150,000, so the cost to purchase the technology isn’t to be taken lightly.  This pricetag may limit availability, creating a network that excludes some libraries.  Some librarians are concerned that if print-on-demand becomes too inexpensive and readily available, it may represent a threat to the continued need for libraries.  Personally, I disagree with the latter fear, but it is expressed in some blogs and articles.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about print-on-demand technology.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

Print-on-demand technology is a new and exciting option that can and has been integrated into multiple public and academic libraries.  I can use the knowledge that I have gained to discuss print-on-demand as an option for library adoption consideration.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

I think that print-on-demand represents an exciting opportunity for libraries to extend the definition of maker and idea labs.  It provides a great way to simultaneously augment and trim the library collection.  By diverting funds that may be used in preservation of out-of-print materials or acquisition of obscure items that may never be used into a print-on-demand machine, libraries may save collection costs in the long run and be able to utilize funds more effectively and creatively.  It’s also a great way to support the community through providing options for self-publication.  I think it’s a technology that libraries should seriously consider adopting.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Anderson, R.  (2013).  Print-on-demand and the law of unintended consequences.  LibraryJournal.  Retrieved from

Blummer, B. B. (2005). Opportunities for Libraries with Print-on-Demand Publishing. Journal Of Access Services, 3(2), 41-54.

Maloney, J.  (2012).  One book, light and sweet.  Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from

Rapp, D. (2011). Print-on-Demand Meets Public Libraries. Library Journal, 136(20), 22.

Szkolar, D.  (2012).  Espresso book machines: Should libraries offer on-demand publishing?  Information Space.  Retrieved from

With a QR Here, and a QR There…

Imagine getting the whole community involved in a live, real time scavenger hunt.  Starting at the library, patrons scan a QR code that leads them to a local business.  At the business, they search for a second QR, which leads them to a third site.  And on and on they go, visiting local landmarks and patronizing community businesses, all the while interacting with new and familiar faces and connecting over a common book.

That’s just what the library staff from Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Topeka, Kansas did in 2013.  As part of The Big Read initiative––a grant-funded fall reading program–TSCPL chose The Maltese Falcon and created a lot of fun events around it, including a communitywide scavenger hunt, done via QR Codes. Michael Porter and David Lee King describe the event:  “TSCPL partnered with several area businesses on this event including a chocolate store, two art galleries, a cupcake shop, and a bookstore. Participants began the scavenger hunt at the library. The first stop was to scan the QR Code by the Maltese Falcon display. Doing that gave participants a name and address of the next stop in the game. Patrons had to drive to the next site and find the QR Code” (2013, para 2).

Sounds fun, right?  But what exactly are QR codes, and how can they be used in the library?

QR Codes Explained

Quick Response (QR) Codes–also known as 2d codesj, 2d barcodes, or mobile codes–are a type of matrix barcode that can be read by smartphones and mobile phones with cameras.  They are typicaly small, black and white square codes with geometric shapes, although they can be colored or even branded.  QR codes can hold far more data than a barcode, including URLs, phone numbers, SMS messages, V-cards, or text.  Developed in the early 1990s, they are referred to as quick response codes because they can be decoded at a very high speed (Ashford, para. 3).

Creating QR Codes

QR Codes can be generated quite simply via free code generators.  Generators differ in the types of QR Codes that you can create; for example, they may allow URL, text, phone number, or SMS and provide a range of options for code sizes.  Batching is generally quick and easy, so printing codes can be as simple as a single large print job.

QR Codes and Libraries

QR Codes are convenient, low-cost, easy to implement, and easy to use–a great value for any business or library looking to get a lot of bang out of their buck.  Libraries are using QR Codes in a variety of ways, by:

  • Linking QR Codes to library audio tours for orientations,
  • Adding QR codes to printed handouts for additional information,
  • Linking to websites,
  • Affixing to media cases to link to online media,
  • Placing on books/book cases to link to author interviews or book reviews,
  • Snap and go mobile library services,
  • Tagging bookshelves to point to subject guides,
  • Creating games,

and more!

The Topeka Experiment

How did the TSCPL Scavenger Hunt end?  Admittedly, the end participation was a little bit underwhelming–only eight library patrons finished the contest in full.  But with more than 300 initially responding, library staff still considered the experiment a win.  They learned more about their user community and brought people together.  They also learned how to use–and how not to use–QR Codes in their community.  They also drew attention to the book selected for their project

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about QR codes and how they can potentially be used in libraries.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

I think that QR Codes can have a variety of applications in a library environment.  From using QR Codes to provide information and links in house to creating opportunities for patrons to interact with the community, QR provides a quick, easy, and inexpensive means of connecting with patrons.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

QR Codes relate to library work because they present an opportunity for libraries to use current, popular technology in the library in novel ways.  For the technologically inclined librarian, QR presents almost endless possibilities for connection with patrons and the community.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Ashford, R.  (2010).  QR codes and academic libraries: Reaching mobile users.  College & Research Libraries News.  Retrieved from  (n.d.).  QR codes.  Retrieved from

Porter, M. & King, D.L.  (2013).  QR codes in libraries: Some examples.  Public Libraries Online.  Retrieved from

Princeton University Libraries.  (2015).  QR codes demystified:  QR codes in libraries.  Retrieved from