5 Universities Killing It On Snapchat

Snapchat_LogoI am becoming convinced that Snapchat should become a library social media staple. Being a “cusper” (on the tail end of the millennial generation) I might not be as in-tune with what’s fresh in social as my younger counterparts, but the numbers don’t lie. Smith, from DMR, reports that Snapchat not only touts 100 million daily active users, but a demographic that comprises of 77% college students. In addition, Smith states that 71% are 34 years old or younger and 45% are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Since so many users are the age of traditional college students, I think this makes Snapchat worth the time/money investment for libraries.

Among the throng of brands proliferating Snapchat, I have not noticed a large number of academic libraries using the platform. Moreover I was also unable to find a substantive quantity of higher education institutions in general using Snapchat. However, I did come across a few gems in the postsecondary realm that really understood how to leverage this social tool. Listed below are the aforementioned institutions. I suggest that libraries follow them and monitor how they engage students online for inspiration, before delving into their own snapping endeavors. With features like Snapchat Stories, Live, and Discover, Snapchat is becoming more conducive for student engagement.

Before I list the exemplar universities, I wanted to share two content themes that arose during my Snapchat perusal, Campus Life and Media Reuse/Sharing. Campus Life involves promoting events on campus, taking users on “video tours” of departments or popular restaurants, and generally just communicating what it’s like to go to that university. Media Reuse/Sharing consists of universities sharing student photos/videos on Snapchat or other social media venues such as Facebook or Twitter. Users on social media generally love it when an institution will share their content and it allows the university to use it as organic promotional content. Ok…without further ado, here’s my list!

1) University of Michigan

Username: UofMichigan– I would have to say that this account is probably my favorite. UMich has one of the oldest university Snapchat accounts and the social team really knows how to leverage all types of media. In their Snapchat Stories they incorporate video, music, funny online clips, doodles, hashtags, and pictures. It’s clear that they know who their target audience is, and they are great at embedding themselves into the everyday activities of undergrads. Their current story on the freshman move in checklist and #selfie contest are prime examples of this.

2) MIT

Username: mitstudents – Most of the content I have seen from MIT centers on the “around campus” vibe. What makes their account fun to follow is the fact that they don’t display easy to access campus information, but rather provide you with a behind the scenes peek of what goes on at MIT. It serves as a sort of unofficial campus guide.

3) Colorado State University

Username: ColoradoStateU – Over the summer CSU initiated a #stateofsummer hashtag Snapchat contest. They encouraged students to share their summer pictures on social media for a chance to win a prize. This is a great example of utilizing user generated content to promote the university. Below is one contestant’s post that was shared on Twitter. You can see how students’ activities in the state where CSU is located, serve as a way to engage CSU’s current audience as well as advertise to prospective students.

4) Princeton University

Username: princeton_u – Princeton has caught on to their students’ social sharing tendencies. They not only share snaps on Snapchat but have a designated Facebook photo album entitled Snapchat Saturday. The album’s description reads “Featuring the week’s most fun and creative snaps to Princeton_U!” and promotes user content that exudes school pride.

5) Duke University

Username: @dukestudents – I attended Hootsuite’s webinar, Social Media in Education: Tips from 3 Pros, and got to hear some of the awesome social media efforts that are going on at Duke University. One platform they have found to be highly successful is Snapchat. They use it for outreach and to showcase student life at Duke. The snaps they post are funny and engaging and they have made great use of Snapchat Stories. If you have time I highly recommend you listen to the webinar.

Honorable Mentions

University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Username: unlincoln – Most of the content I’ve seen from UNL comprises of campus activities. Free events such as #Gradfest and Service Learning Fair are communicated from their account. It is a useful resource for students looking for interesting activities, but not highly engaging which is why they didn’t make the cut.

ucsf-snapchatUniversity of California San Francisco

Username: USFCA

Other Universities with Sanpchat Accounts

There are more and more universities joining Snapchat on a regular basis. Listed below are some that I have found interesting.

Chico State University – Username: chico.state

Coastal Carolina University – Username: CCUChanticleers

Eastern Kentucky University – Username: ekustories

Eastern Washington University – Username: ewuathletics

Illinois State University – Username: illinoisstate

Kent State University – Username: KentStateU

Liberty University – Username: sparkyflames

Mount Aloysius College- Username: MountAloysius

Northern Michigan University – Username: NorthernMichU

Northwestern University – NorthwesternADM

Shepherd University- SUstudents

University of Houston – Username: uhouston

University of Kansas -Username: jayhawks

University of New Hampshire -Username: UNHStudents

University of Minnesota: Morris- SCummorris

University of Washington – Username: uwstudentlife

Valparaiso University- valparaisou

West Virginia University – Username: westvirginiau

Wichita State- Username: goshockers

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania- Username: whartonschool

Let me know if you have any you want me to add to the list! I think that these trailblazers are perfect for some inspiration as you attempt your own Snapchat engagement.



Top Libraries for Academic Libraries to Follow on Pinterest: Part Deux

libraries on pinterest

I wrote the Top 10 Libraries for Academic Libraries to Follow on Pinterest back in 2013, but with so many new boards popping up I thought I’d add to the list (as a side note I noticed just about every library has either a Downton Abbey or cat-related board!). I used the same criteria:

  • Post quality content for repinning- This includes content that promotes research, innovation, best practices, etc
  • Generate inventive boards
  • Employ creative titles
  • Do not overpost or have too many boards
    • Some libraries have started using Pinterest like a Libguide, pinning all their books on their boards. I’m not a huge fan of this. I think it’s great to pin some new arrivals or staff picks, but when you get too crazy it becomes overkill.
  • I have a post: How Libraries are Doing Pinterest Wrong that lists some popular Pinterest pitfalls to avoid

University of Texas Libraries

UT is a great example of properly utilizing boards on Pinterest. They don’t go overboard, the titles are creative and informative, and the pictures that are pinned are well chosen.

Boards to check out: Yeah We Have That and Study Inspiration

American Libraries Magazine (ALA)

Their profile picture is a little pixelated, but I like the board topics they chose. I especially appreciate that they only do a board for their current annual conference, and delete boards of past conferences. To me this keeps their page relevant.

Boards to check out: Bookmobiles and People with American Libraries

Kansas City Public Library

I wouldn’t give them high marks for photo quality (some are pretty blurry and text heavy) or board brevity, but I chose them because of their creative titles and board themes.

Board to check out: Book-Inspired Crafts (very well curated)

British Library

I loved the British Library’s board titles! Manuscript Monday, BLogs, and The Pen is Mightier than the Sword…awesome monikers.

Boards to check out: Unexpected Libraries, Made with the BL

University of St. Thomas Libraries

This board seems to be just getting started (they have a few blank boards), but I love the Best Study Spaces idea. The board needs to be curated a little more but the idea is great. As an undergrad I was always looking for places to nap/study and it was always a hunt for the perfect spot. this could be a fun group board where students pin their favorite study locals.

Board to check out: Best Study Spaces

Cambridge University Library

This library has a solid collection of carefully selected pins. I like the fact that they didn’t go overboard on the history of the library pins (you can go crazy with those).

Board to check out: How We Work– A fun look behind the stacks!

Condé Nast Library

The photos these libraries picked are outstanding. The content they selected isn’t overwhelming and the photos are interesting and entice you to click to find out more!

Board to check out: Art and Photography

University of Las Vegas  Architecture Library

They have wonderfully vivid shots of architecture. These boards are also great because they appeal to a library and non-library audience.

Boards to check out: Competitions/AwardsTiny Spaces

Museum at FIT

Ok this isn’t technically a library, but their boards are fantastic! They are a great example of how to properly use photos on Pinterest. They are great quality, organized well, and eye catching.

Board to check out: Strike a Pose

What are your favorite libraries to follow on Pinterest?


Snapchat For Your Library


Snapchat_logo Snapchat has been getting a lot of buzz as of late (Facebook offered to purchase it for $3 billion, but was turned down). It is currently valued at about $4 billion, and I think it will be the social media application of 2014 (here’s an interesting story of why teens use Snapchat by npr).

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo chat application developed by Stanford University student Evan Spiegel. What makes it different from Google chat, FB messaging, etc is the fact that the “snaps” (photos/videos/text) that you send are only viewable between 1-10 seconds, and then deleted permanently. It is known as the “next wave of private social sharing” (USA Today).

Who Uses Snapchat?

All Things D’s Liz Gannes reports that Snapchat is used by kids between the ages of “13-25 years old, with a growing contingent that’s aged 40 and over.” Business are also jumping on the Snapchat train. Mashable’s recent article 8 Brands Rocking Snapchat lists some awesome ways that brands are using this service.

How Can Libraries Use Snapchat?

Taking direction from the brands listed in Mashable’s article here are a few ideas I have:

1) 16 Handles Example: Ask your patrons to snap a pic of themselves with a roving library item/mascot. When I was attending TSMRI’s social media conference I attended the session 32 Flavors and Then Some: Creative Ways to Grow Your Social Presence. The presenters had the awesome idea of “steal this pen.” Students would take a specific university pen and take a pic with it wherever they were globally. They used Twitter for the sharing, but Snapchat is a great way to do this as well. As a library you could have students send a pic with a specific book, pen, mascot, etc. then in return they could be sent a 10 sec self destructing coupon code that they could bring into the library for a print of their photo.

2) Karmaloop Example: Karmaloop sends snaps of it’s brands new releases, office pictures, etc. You could do the same with the library. You could snap a “behind the scenes” video of the process of repairing a damaged book, a pic of new book arrivals, etc.

3) Taco Bell Example: Taco Bell used Snapchat’s Stories feature. This feature allows you to tell a story in a series of photos. You could do this in your library in several different ways: story of how a book is made, abridged version of a classic novel, etc. This might be one of the most useful ways for libraries to use Snapchat. These are just a few of my ideas. If your library is using Snapchat please comment below and tell us how your using it!


Here is another idea that I just discovered: The Snapchat Pitch. In this contest students have 10 seconds or less to pitch their idea to the ad agency DDB Oslo. If their idea is selected they will be flown out to DDB Oslo for an interview.

You could have students describe their favorite book or library improvement idea in 10 seconds or less. http://vimeo.com/84663955

**2nd Update:

This guy performed the most awesome song covers using Snapchat! You could do a contest having students create a video with visuals in Snapchat…Maybe reenacting plots from their favorite book or Shakespeare play?

**3rd Update

I just posted a new post: How to Create a Snapchat Contest. It describes the contest I created this last semester.

**4th Update

Madonna just announced that she will be releasing her new music video on Snapchat tomorrow. It seems like this platform is definitely becoming more of a mainstream marketing tool!

Top Ten IFTTT Recipes for Librarians


Ok if you’re a librarian then you’re probably familiar with the statement “if this then that” (IFTTT). It’s pretty much a Boolean search that performs an action in a web application. If you’ve ever performed an advanced search, run a list in your LMS, forwarded your email to another email carrier, etc then you’ve used an IFTTT statement. IFTTT is a free service came out in 2010 and allows you to create and use “recipes” that execute commands online. For example you can backup your tagged Facebook photos in your Dropbox folder by creating the recipe “IF I am tagged in a photo on Facebook THEN I want to add that file to my Dropbox (THAT).” And IFTTT takes all the coding out of it making recipe creation a piece of cake 🙂

Here are my top 10 IFTTT recipes:

1) When you get a Gmail that you have a new Twitter follower automatically tweet them a welcome message

2) Back up my contacts to a Google Spreadsheet: Useful method for backing up your contact list.

3) When a new book is added to Kindle Top 100 eBooks, send me an email

4) When a new book is added to the NY Times Best Sellers List, send me an email: #3 and #4 utilize RSS URLs so the possibilities for this recipe are endless.

5) If I star a Gmail, send it to Evernote

6) Save the Facebook photos I upload to Dropbox:This is a great way to save the photos you post for your library’s FB account.

7) Log all of my completed goals (iOS) in a Google Drive spreadsheet: This is a useful way to keep a record of all your completed projects for your yearly reporting.

8) Tweet every YouTube video you favorite

9) Upload new Instagram photos to Flickr

10) Create a Facebook status update via text message: This is especially useful for those who have not jumped on the smartphone bandwagon. If you manage your library’s Facebook and are on the go just simply send a text message w/ the hashtag #FB and it will appear on Facebook as a status message. Now when you get an awesome idea for a status update you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to post it, all you have to do is text!

IFTTT also has a great user community. You can share recipes you’ve created or browse the ones that have been shared by others. You’ll be surprised w/ people’s innovation! If you have any awesome IFTTT recipes that you use please share them below:

Best Contests for Pinterest

Looking for a way to engage your patrons/customers/students? How about a Pinterest contest?! Pinterest contests can be a great way to engage your audience as well as sneak in digital literacy skill development that is fun and exciting to learn!

I have been scouring the interweb to curate a list of past and present Pinterest contests as well as some of my own thought formations. If you have any to add I’d love to hear them!

Interactive Image Contest

Repin to Win/Pin It to Win It

This has been done by various entities and is an effective way to expose your products to a wider audience. Here are some guidelines to checkout before you start your contest. Examples:

Library Repin to Win ideas:

  • New book arrivals
  • Your favorite booklist (using Goodreads)
  • Best places to study
  • Best study apps
  • Best YouTube songs to study to (pinning a video can be found here)
  • Have a “database/resource of the day/week” on your library’s Pinterest board that students can repin.

Theme Contest

  • Create Pinterest board based on a specific theme, best board wins (based on a set rubric) or board with the most likes wins, etc
  • Syracuse University’s Future of Librarianship contest

Guess this Image

  • Contestants can answer in the comments area. Here are a few examples that you can adapt for Pinterest:
  • SBCC’s Luria Library
  • Yahoo (see below):

Snapshot Jackpot

The UMHB Alumni association hosted this contest for Instagram but it could be adapted for Pinterest. The contestants were required to visit a particular place on campus, take a picture of the building, upload the picture to Instagram, and tag it #umhbcharterday13. The pic with the most likes won $50. (With Pinterest’s new hashtag capability this is an awesome contest to try out!)

Clue Contest


Video contest

  • Have users upload a video to YouTube based on a specific theme, then pin to Pinterest w/ a specific hashtag
  • JoAnn

Infographic Contest

  • During the spring 2013 semester I created an infographic contest. Students were required to create an infographic (using their own software or an infographic generator like easel.ly or piktocahrt) and post it to Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook w/ the hashtag #tmlinfographic. Infographics were judged on a set rubric by faculty.
  • Here’s a link to the contest page


Daily Photo Challenge

  • Each day has a new challenge: your minor, your major, best (school color) combo, etc
  • Entries post to Pinterest w/ hashtag and @yourlibrary/company (ex: tmlphotochallenge, @umhblibrary)
  • Quinnipiac University’s #quphotochallenge

Using Hashtags to Teach Subject Headings

CaptureOne of the hardest concepts, that I have found, for students to grasp and actually utilize are subject headings. Because students don’t regularly employ them in their day to day life they tend to be cast aside for a comfortable natural language search technique. I show students how useful subject headings can be when searching in the library’s catalog and throughout various databases, but they still don’t use them when it comes to conducting research on their own. While mulling around ideas of how to teach this concept in a more efficient manner, a little light bulb went off in my head…hashtags! Hashtags are a concept that students already understand and implement and are a great way to teach about subject headings. Here are a few exercises that I have come up with:

  1. Objective: Show how hashtags and subject headings can help one find more information on a specific topic
    • Example: Click on a trending hashtag on twitter (located in the left column) and explore the various tweets on that topic.
    • Take that same topic and search it in a database.
      • Show the database subject heading for that specific topic and click on it to show the database resources on that topic.
    • Exercise: Have the students pick a hashtag of their choice and list the top 3 Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook results for that hashtag.
      • Have them use that same hashtag and search it in a few library databases and find the most relevant subject heading. Then have them expand/click on the subject heading and list the top 3 results they get in each database.
  2. Objective: Show how hashtags about the same subject but with different lettering can result in a different (and limited) set of results
    • Example: #napomo, #natpomo, #natpoetrymonth, #nationalpoetrymonth
    • All of the hashtags above are about National Poetry Month but they all lead to a different set of results!
    • You could then introduce how subject headings work and discuss that through the use of a “controlled vocabulary” subject headings are required to be worded in a specific way so the researcher will have a more comprehensive list of results.
    • Exercise: Have students come up with their own controlled vocabulary for hashtags. You could also have them explain why they used each hashtag (ex: shorter lettering makes it more conducive for Twitter use)

These are just a few ideas, but I think they could be really useful. Since students already understand the concept of hashtags this takes a lot of the “lecture” part out and allows more focus on activities and engagement.

Update 2/11/2016: I wrote an article for Computers in Libraries about my further experiments with hashtag IL instruction. Check it out if you’d like to learn more!

Alfonzo, P. (2014). Using Twitter hashtags for information literacy instruction. Computers in Libraries, 34(7), 19-22.


SXSWi Spots and Sessions for Librarians

Here is the list of all SXSWi events. There are so many sessions to attend and people to meet that it can be pretty overwhelming. When searching this extensive list try narrowing it down by theme such as:

I have listed a few spots and sessions that are great places to start. If you have any ideas please leave a comment!

#ideadrop House


Hosed by Electronic Resources and Libraries and ProQuest this is a must for any librarian attedning sxswi. This is a place where you can share ideas, attend sessions about digital librarianship, and network with your fellow colleagues! Attendance is free, click here to see the various sessions and speakers. Here is a list of just a few events:

  • SXSWi Kick off: Being Interactive @ Interactive
  • How to be Human Online
  • Social Media and Libraries

Librarian Meet Up

Free 3/10

Meet up with librarians who are attending sxsw, share ideas, network.

2013 SXSW Newbies Meet Up

The Mashable Variety Show

Must be a badge holder

Pete Cashmore will discuss the revolution of the Internet and what it means.  He will “explore how the world has grown and change due to the constant re-invention of the Internet through how marketing strategies have evolved, how news delivery has moved from your doorstep to your newsfeed, and how the Internet itself has gotten the world to reconnect through images, stories and sometimes, cats!” You will be sure to learn new methods for marketing your library, new ideas for to delivering digital content, and a better understanding of the ever changing digital stratosphere.


Must be a badge holder

Listen to educators who are focused on digital learning.

Digital Creative Job Market

Free, 3/7 & 3/8

Market your research talents to some cutting-edge employers.

SXSW Create

Free, 3/8-3/11

Are you a digital DIYer? Then this is a great place to collaborate! Even if you are not that tech savy this is a inspiring place to learn about new innovative tools and ideas. It could help you w/ your own library services or give you some awesome collection development ideas.

SXSW Librarian Guides

People/Groups to Follow on Twitter