Snapchat in the Library: Librarians Master an App to Reach Millennials- ALA Extended Article Version

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Hello!

I am very excited to announce my newest article that was published in ALA’s magazine: Snapchat in the Library Librarians: Master an App to Reach Millennials! For this article I had the opportunity to interview a variety of amazing librarians who are leveraging this app to reach their patrons. Librarians from K-12, public libraries, and academic libraries are all using Snapchat to communicate with their populations and are implementing really creative ways to do so. Due to the column space I was allotted I had to cut the last section out: Snapchat How Tos. I thought some of you might me interested in learning how to optimally create a Snapchat account in case you’re considering it for your library. So without further ado, here’s the full article (keep in mind it’s an earlier draft so it differs slightly than the one in ALA Trends). Enjoy!

Libraries Jumping On Board With Snapchat

A lot has changed in the five years since Snapchat arrived on the social media scene. It’s no longer the fledgling “disappearing message app” used solely by teens. Instead, it’s now the poster child for message focused social media applications that are growing in popularity among young users. It’s a platform that focuses on interaction, and capitalizes on the playful side of social media, providing a way for users to send “ephemera” back and forth between friends (Chafkin & Frier, 2016).

“Snapchat isn’t a place to showcase one’s popularity, it’s a place for interaction. It doesn’t require a public identity and you can’t see how many followers someone has, you can only follow and interact with people you care about” says Alanna Graves, Snapchat guru and Teen Services Librarian at Cape May County Library. Sarah Meisch-Lacombe, who handles Loyola Chicago Libraries’ Snapchat adds “I wanted to start a Snapchat account because I thought it would be a better way for students to interact with our physical space.”

The ability to interact with one another, utilize filters, toss in an emoji, and showcase one’s lighthearted side (without having to worry too much about one’s digital footprint or online popularity) are some of the many reasons millennials have flocked to this platform. This mass migration of millennials to Snapchat has prompted librarians across the globe to take notice. Over the past year library Snapchat accounts have started to pop up, and the librarians behind these accounts are finding incredibly innovative ways to use it to reach library patrons.

What’s the number one reason why librarians are choosing to join the Snapchat Revolution? It’s where the kids are. Hannah Byrd Little, middle school library director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, shared “I struggled with communication because kids don’t read email anymore and they’ve moved away from Facebook and Twitter. That’s why I decided to create a Snapchat account.” Librarians are using Snapchat across the spectrum of education, even in elementary school. Leon Springs Elementary School librarian, Jennifer Eckert, finds Snapchat to be “most popular with kids in fourth and fifth grade.” Academic librarians, public librarians, and school librarians alike are finding ways to get creative with Snapchat and communicate with their patrons. Here are just some of the ways librarians are discovering how to use this growing platform:

Readers’ Advisory

Alanna Graves, started using Snapchat for the library’s #TeenBookTuesday back in November 2015. “Since introducing #TeenBookTuesday we have seen our featured books get checked out within a week after our snaps. It’s also a great way to interact with patrons. My desk is a little hard to find because it’s in the back, and since we introduced Snapchat, patrons now make a beeline for my desk because they remember my face” Alanna shares. Alanna has also found Snapchat to be an efficient tool for highlighting lesser known books with edgier topics. She stated that the anonymity of Snapchat allows patrons to check out books with subjects they might not feel comfortable asking her about in person.

Zinnia Bayardo, librarian at Bernal Middle School, also uses Snapchat for Readers’ Advisory. “We have a ‘Teen Tuesday’ and ‘What Are You Reading Wednesday’ every week where I’ll promote new books. These have been pretty successful, over the summer (when I was lagging a bit on my posts) I had students asking me when I was going to start posting for Teen Book Tuesday again. I also had one student tell me that she read one of my book recommendations that I shared on Snapchat. Our ‘What Are You Reading Wednesdays’ have become particularly popular because students really like seeing themselves” Zinnia shares.

Event/Program Promotion & News

Snapchat is a great tool for event and program promotions many librarians have found. Alanna Graves Snapchats during events at the multiple Cape May County library branches. She recommends snapping objects rather than patrons if your library has privacy restrictions. Sarah shares that she uses Snapchat to promote upcoming events like the library’s book sale and Hannah states that she likes to snap videos during school assemblies. Librarians also like to use Snapchat during the school year to disseminate relevant news to patrons. “Social media is where students are getting their news so it’s important that I share information out on those channels. Every morning I take a snap of the school schedule because it can be confusing to students. I also promote national and fun/interesting holidays on Snapchat,” Hannah expresses.

Behind the Scenes

Showcasing a behind-the-scenes look at the library is a popular way to engage the library community. This includes an inside look at spaces and objects in the library as well as a peek at what library staff and faculty are up to. Stacy Taylor, user experience librarian at Central Washington University, states “we do 10 second ‘elevator speeches’ with our library faculty.” Nancy Jo Lambert, librarian at Reedy High School Library, states “Students really like when we feature our teachers on Snapchat using filters, that’s the type of content that gets the most screenshots.” Sarah gives college students a peek at what academic library staff like to do after hours by taking videos of Loyola’s “Library Olympics” event. “Library Olympics is a staff event that we have every year. I like to take video of some of the events we do like ‘book on the head racing’ to give personality to our snaps, it’s better just posting static content.” Sarah also takes a “throwback Thursday” approach and highlights some old interesting books and magazine such as Vogue issues from bygone years.

Geofilters

To test the waters before they commit to an official Snapchat account, Nashville (Tenn.) Public Librarians Nicholas Tognoni and Josephine Wood created a Geofilter contest last summer. “We’re encouraging patrons to use iconic aspects of the library building and other local Geofilters as their design inspirations.” To ensure that their patrons were prepared for Geofilter creation, they held design workshops. “We took our traditional graphic design workshop that we hold every Monday and changed the focus to Geofilter design using Adobe Illustrator,” Tognoni said. “Using Illustrator and other professional software is a great way to teach teens skills that will later translate into jobs, and Geofilters work as natural marketing for the library.”

Teen Takeovers

An emerging trend that librarians are interested in are Teen Takeovers or Snapchat Ambassadorships. “This fall I want to start doing a Takeover Tuesday with our student workers” Stacy states. Niq and Josephine add “if we do start an account we’d like to allow teens to be content creators, maybe have them film a 3D printing session. Social media ambassadors are a great way to get community people to amplify your library’s message. We think it’s definitely a platform worth experimenting with.”

Snapchat How-Tos

Ready to start your own Snapchat account? The majority of the librarians I spoke to were Snapchat users before they decided to start one for their library. If you’re not a Snapchat native spend some time to learn how to use the platform. Stacy Taylor recommends really getting to know the platform before using it publically. Alanna (username: CMCLibrary) has offered that any librarians who want to test the platform out can add her to practice on. If you’re ready to jump in here are some recommendations from seasoned Snapchat librarians:

Administrative Buy-In: Most of the librarians launching a successful snapchat account cited having support from their directors, even if they didn’t completely understand Snapchat. Having a solid foundation of trust with their directors gave them to flexibility to implement and experiment with Snapchat. “I am entrusted with all our social media platforms so I didn’t really receive any push back from administration when I wanted to start a Snapchat account” states Stacy Taylor.

Account Promotion: Word-of-mouth was by far the most effective method for getting the word out about library Snapchat accounts. Signs/flyers, other social media platforms, and blog posts with the library’s username and/or snapcode were also popular ways of promotion. Niq and Josephine shared that they their audience by using social media promotion to target teen parents and word of mouth to target teens. On the K-12 level Hannah and Jennifer found assembly announcements to be effective. For high school students Nancy Jo conveys the need for a more secretive approach. “I have found the more ‘underground’ about promotion I am, the more interested students are. Students see me taking videos and photos around the library and ask what I’m doing. I very nonchalantly tell them ‘oh yeah, I’m just using snapchat.’ That really gets them intrigued.” No matter how librarians are promoting their accounts they all express the need to let patrons know that the library will not follow them back. Zinnia shares “In the beginning students were hesitant to follow us because they were worried I’d see their snaps. Once I told them I wouldn’t follow them back they were more willing to follow our account. Not following students back is my policy across all our social media accounts.”

Analytics: Currently Snapchat is a little skimpy when it comes to analytics. Alanna recommends counting screenshots, “I always take a still 10 second video of the book at the end of my video series, then I can see who takes screenshots of the book, I think this is a better metric than just relying on views.” Stacy states that she likes to utilize views across the entire Snapchat Story. “I like to see how many views our first picture gets vs our last picture; usually there’s a drop-off after the second or third which indicates that we might be posting too much about one thing.”

Overall librarians have found Snapchat to be a great tool for connecting with patrons where they’re at and sharing the story of what’s happening in their library. Sarah recommends that libraries “just go for it and experiment, don’t overthink or plan it out too much.” Zinnia shares that “there’s a trend of meeting students where they’re at, whether it’s regarding messaging, instruction, etc. and it’s important that we make it easy for students to get and learn information.”

References

“How Snapchat Built a Business By Confusing Olds.” Bloomberg.com. Accessed September 7, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-how-snapchat-built-a-business/.

Resources

*Quotations in this article have been modified for article flow and clarity

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