New in the Labs: Pinterest for Libraries

-Written by Martha Sarno

Spring 2012 Library Labs Assistant

Available on your smartphone or on any internet server, Pinterest is a new social website and mobile application.

Until Pinterest, launched in 2009, “there was no convenient place for people to collect things online.” As collectors themselves, Google alum, Ben Silbermann alongside his friend, Paul Sciarra, and designer Evan Sharp, found a way to make it easy. As a small team with an ingenious idea, their project reached “regular people.”

At first, Pinterest was “attracting women in droves with its eye-candy photos of do-it-yourself crafts, fanciful recipes, dream kitchens and wedding inspirations.” Recently, interests continue to soar far beyond crafting as audiences expand. One active user describes Pinterest as “the encyclopedia of great blogs for someone who has no idea where they should be looking.” Thus, Critics agree that, “part of the appeal is [its] simplicity” (MacMillan).

Reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter’s news feeds, the images and captions on your pinboard serve as a visual representation of what you are up to, working on, dream of, and more. Before participating in the fun, you must request an invite to join. This is as simple as just plugging in your email address. After a short time (even up to a week), you will receive an email invitation from Pinterest. The email directs you to the site to complete the registration. With no fee required, simply check off your interests and you are free to pin anything to your “virtual pinboard.” Conveniently, Pinterest offers a bookmarking tab to add to your internet browser, allowing you to peruse the internet and pin directly to your board.

Pinterest is easily accessible, allowing a couple of options for log in. You may sign in through your Facebook or Twitter account, automatically connecting you to all of your friends and followers. Logging in with just your email address may limit you to a more impersonal network of people and require you to seek out friends. Currently, there are no advanced security settings to block others from viewing your board.

The home page presents you with an array of images that you may “like,” “comment,” or “repin” to your own board. Searching for new “pinterests” is quite easy. Click “everything” at the top of the home page where you can scope out endless images of all that pinners are pinning. Other search options include “popular,” “videos,” as well as “gifts.” The images zoom in when clicked once. Click again and you are transported to the site at which the work is posted. For instance, an image with the caption added by the pinner, “The BEST crab cakes. EVER!” leads to the Food & Wine site with the full “Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes” recipe for you to try.

Pinterest allows you to organize your board by editing your profile. It is suggested to place the most visually captivating images at the top of your profile. Be mindful that certain quirks in the site can be limiting as far as editing photographs and tracking your followers. Yet, “recent activity” on the left side of the main page pinboard shows other pinners that follow you, as well as new “friends to follow.” These quirks trickle into privacy as pinners may follow and be followed by anyone. It is strongly advised to think about the “story” you are revealing and “make sure it’s the one you want to share” (Meredith).

Akin to other social media, Pinterest attracts businesses and organizations for new opportunities. Retail giants such as Whole Foods find new ways to inspire Pinterest’s main audience (women between 30-40 years of age). Interestingly, Whole Foods “eschews photos of brand names and instead concentrates on topics that interest its customers: fitness, the environment, kitchen gadgets and, of course, food” (Jones). Even though the statistics represent this specific demographic, as seen with other networks, it is inevitable that the age group will span considerably from the site’s exponential popularity.

Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Needleman offers pointers in planning your pinboard. These include making use of several categories such as art, education, people, and technology to visually intrigue your audience. Be mindful in selecting images so that it does not read blatant “advertisement.” Lastly, captivate by using creative captions (Needleman).

With specific attention to Image and caption, Pinterest allows users to make their own collection including a “platform to write compelling descriptions” in promotion of their products (Needleman). Chicago Tribune’s Sandra Jones offers a cautionary note to businesses joining Pinterest. “Keep self-promotion to a minimum. When pinning images from other blogs or websites, be nice and credit the original source.”

On that note, “copyrighted images are being pinned all the time without permission…for an individual user, there may not be any repercussions, but for a business, that may be a different story” (Bulger). As always a concern in the library community, it is best to post permission-based images or those owned by the user. In response to these concerns “Pinterest has procedures in place to deal with the posting of copyrighted images and other material.” Pinners can “report a violation and have the content taken down.” The founders have not encountered substantial problems as of yet (Needleman).

It is said that, “Pinterest is currently valued at around $200 million.” Surprisingly it has not joined the larger conglomerates with “affiliate marketing” plans, allowing “merchants [to] place links to their Web stores on related sites in return for giving up a percentage of every sale that results from those links.” Remarkably, according to the founders there is no intention of doing so. Silbermann shares that his ultimate “hope” is to “build a service that a lot of people use to plan and discover things,” giving his users “value” (Needleman).

Discovery indeed is the intrigue. In February 2012, “Pinterest…attracted more than 11 million unique visitors, more than double the 4.9 million who visited the site in November, according to comScore.” The visitors perused the site approximately 100 minutes, drastically different than that of other networking sites, including LinkedIn measured at 19 minutes of time. comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman proves its distinction in that no other “stand-alone site…has reached 10 million visitors faster” (Needleman).

Despite the stats, be sure not to abandon other networks altogether. Sharaholicstudy reports that “Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.” But “take advantage of that traffic” by interweaving these networks together to reveal a full story and meaning (Bulger).

Currently, not many libraries have implemented Pinterest into their programs. However, Canton Public Library has successfully incorporated this tool to engage users as seen here. Resembling their own user-friendly site, Pinterest’s easy to use application can be found at the base of their homepage. Users simply click on the Pinterest icon (a red “P”) and routed to the pinboard of Canton’s library.

Pinterest is not as intimidating or complex as other social media sites. Like all new Web 2.0 tools, the only resource required is time with a little “pinning” everyday. Rebecca Crown’s Library, a standout compared with other universities, fully analyzes and embraces modern technologies to serve the academic community. Clearly these networks continue to improve ways for our users to retrieve information.

Ultimately, Pinterest is a new way to scrapbook an online web archive. Therefore, it is suggested that the library create and operate its own account. Rebecca Crown’s librarians are a great judge of marketing appropriate news, university information, events, stories, and special interests of students on campus. This visual stimulation is a wonderful way to satisfy student and faculty curiosity.

Works Cited


Bulger, Stephen. “5 Tips for an Effective Pinterest Strategy.” Multichannel Merchant.

15548961 (2012): n/a. ABI/INFORM Complete; ABI/INFORM Global. Web. 22
Mar. 2012.

Jones, Sandra M. “Getting Started on Pinterest.” Chicago Tribune: 3. Chicago Tribune.
Feb 05 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Jones, Sandra M. “Pinterest.” Chicago Tribune: 1. Chicago Tribune. Feb 05 2012. Web.
15 Mar. 2012.

MacMillan, Douglas. “Why Image-Sharing Network Pinterest Is Hot.” Bloomberg News:

            Businessweek. Nov 17 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Meredith, Leslie. “3 Things to Know About Your New Pinterest Profile.” TechNewsDaily.

            Mar 16 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2012.

Needleman, Sarah E. “Pinterest’s Rite of Web Passage–Huge Traffic, no Revenue.”
Wall Street Journal (Online): n/a. ABI/INFORM Complete; ABI/INFORM Global.
Feb 16 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Needleman, Sarah E. “Small Talk; 6 Tips for Tapping Pinterest’s Surging Popularity.”

Wall Street Journal (Online): n/a. ABI/INFORM Complete; ABI/INFORM Global.
Feb 21 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Martha is pursuing her masters in Library and Information Science at Dominican University. She anticipates graduating in August 2012. She is interested in special libraries making use of new technologies including Web 2.0 tools and networks as well as digital archives. She is originally from Massachusetts where she studied Art History, Marketing and Digital Technology at Boston College with a semester abroad in Rome, Italy.


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