v24 #3 Technology Left Behind

by | Jul 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Technology Left Behind — Pinning in the Library

Column Editor:  Cris Ferguson  (Outreach Librarian, James B. Duke Library, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett
Highway, Greenville, SC 29613;  Phone: 864-294-2713)  <[email protected]>

Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is one of the fastest-growing social media networks on the Internet.  Self-described as a place to “organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the Web,” Pinterest acts as a virtual pin board, enabling users to “pin” Websites, images, articles, and other online content that they want to remember, refer to, or save for later.  (http://pinterest.com/about/)  Think of a bulletin board with push pins or your refrigerator with magnets, but entirely virtual and infinitely tidier.  Users can create as many boards as they like, customizing them to suit their own interests and purposes.

Founded in 2009 by Ben Silbermann, a former Google employee, Pinterest has taken off in terms of popularity.  In January of this year, Pinterest had more than 11 million unique users, more than double the number of users in November 2011.  However, similar to the early days of Facebook and Twitter, the company has yet to generate a profit.

At this time, access to Pinterest is by invitation only, but obtaining an invite is not onerous.  You can request an invite directly from Pinterest — the turnaround time is only a few days — or you can get an invite from a current Pinterest user.

To facilitate the pinning of content, Pinterest offers the “Pin It” tool (http://pinterest.com/about/goodies/#pinmarklet), which integrates with Web browsers.  Once the tool is installed, users can pin content from anywhere on the Web simply by clicking on the “Pin It” button in their browser.  When pinning something Pinterest grabs the URL and adds it to the pin, allowing users to link back to the original item and also give credit to the original creator.  Users may choose to follow other Pinterest users, so that when they log into the service, they can see what their friends have recently pinned, much like the News Feed feature on Facebook. Pinterest also offers an app for iPhones, as well as “Follow” and “Pin It” buttons for Websites that want to encourage users to follow them and pin their content on Pinterest.

The majority of Pinterest users are female, and browsing the recent pins on the site is a lot like leafing through the pages of a women’s magazine.  Common uses of the Pinterest pin boards include collecting ideas for home decorating, planning a wedding, crafting, and recipes.  I use my own Pinterest account to save my bookmarks, such as the blogs I read, Websites I visit on a regular basis, recipes I like, as well as online content my children use regularly.

Individuals aren’t the only ones using Pinterest, though.  Many companies and organizations have realized that Pinterest is an avenue for promoting their goods, and they actively work to build robust groups of followers.  Companies such as Lowe’s, Old Navy, and HGTV all have Pinterest profiles.  The retailers Land’s End and Whole Foods both use the “Pin It” button on their Websites, making it easy for customers to pin and share content from their Websites.

Among the organizations, companies, and institutions using Pinterest are a wide variety of libraries.  Examples include the Richmond Public Library, UC Davis Law Library, Union College Library, UVa Library, Bennett (Elementary School) Library, and the U.S. National Archives, just to name a very few.  The ways in which libraries are using Pinterest are as varied as the libraries themselves.  Richmond Public Library has a boards devoted to ongoing library renovations, pictures of famous people reading, and favorite books about food, whereas the Bennett Library has created boards for iPad Apps, SMART Board tools, and technology integration.

My own library established a Pinterest account earlier this year.  (http://pinterest.com/furmanlibraries/Robyn Andrews, a member of the Circulation Department at the Furman University Libraries, set up our account and updates it on a weekly basis.  Andrews decided to create the account after observing the large number of Furman faculty and students using Pinterest.  “Everyone was on there.  Our students.  Our student workers.  And other libraries were beginning to create pin boards,” said Andrews.  In the beginning, she used the Furman Libraries’ pin boards to highlight and keep track of the books on our Kindles.  “We do not put the books purchased for the Kindles in our catalog, and putting them in Pinterest was an easy way to list them all in one place,” explained Andrews.  Since then, she has created boards that highlight any displays that are put up in the library, special events held on campus, new leisure books, pictures of the main library and branches, and interesting book covers.  For all of the materials that are pinned on the boards, Andrews adds links to the library catalog, enabling patrons to see if the item is available for check out.  At this time, the Furman Libraries has 17 pin boards and 64 followers.  Many of the followers are Furman patrons, and some are other libraries.

In addition to the wide variety of libraries, several library-related vendors and publishers have a presence on Pinterest.  School Library Journal, Duke University Press, and EBSCO Publishing all have Pinterest accounts.  EBSCO has pinned information on a couple of their green initiatives and has a board devoted to library resources; School Library Journal has created boards for eBooks, authors, cool libraries, and more;  and Duke University Press uses its account to highlight new releases and specific subject areas.

Any discussion of Pinterest and its use by libraries needs to include some mention of copyright and intellectual property issues.  Included in Pinterest’s original Terms of Use was a statement indicating that, by accessing and using the Pinterest service, users gave Pinterest the right to sell any content they pinned.  This presented a problem for users that were pinning content they had not created themselves.

In response to concerns as to whether or not users were violating copyright by pinning content belonging to others, the company sent out an email to users on March 23rd of this year announcing changes to the Pinterest Terms of Use.  The new Terms of Use went into effect on April 6, 2012 and specifically eliminated language about selling content.  Pinterest’s new terms ask that users abide by the rules of Pin Ettiquette (http://pinterest.com/about/etiquette/) and the Acceptable Use Policy (http://pinterest.com/about/use/).

In accordance with the Pinterest Terms of Use, users agree that any content they post will not violate the rights of a third party.  In addition, the rules of Pin Etiquette ask that users credit the sources of the content they pin.  If you find a pin that is not credited appropriately, you are asked to leave a comment for the original pinner so that he or she can update the source for the pin.  Pinterest has crafted policies for both copyright and trademark.  (http://pinterest.com/about/copyright/)  The company provides a simple form for reporting copyright infringement, and it will remove pins if the owner of the content objects to its use on Pinterest.  Pinterest reserves the right to disable the accounts of users that repeatedly infringe on the intellectual property rights or copyrights of others.

For content owners that do not want their original material or images to be pinned and shared, Pinterest provides a small snippet of code that can be added to the head of any Web page.  (http://pinterest.com/about/help/)  Once in place, the coding will prevent Pinterest users from pinning the content of the Website.

The highly visual nature of Pinterest makes it very different from other social networking services like Facebook and Twitter.  In a March 2012 issue of Maclean’s, Chris Sorenson had this to say: “Whereas Facebook is largely about people and their personal information, Pinterest is mostly about things, including products — whether it’s an expensive pair of shoes or a perfectly prepared meal.”  User profiles on Pinterest provide only a sentence or two about the user, if that.  The users themselves are largely anonymous, letting the boards and the content that is pinned take center stage.

This unique medium offers libraries the opportunity to advertise their materials and services in an extremely visual manner, without having to populate a lengthy profile with details and descriptions.  The time involved in set up and maintenance of a Pinterest account is minimal, and the visual nature makes it easy for patrons to process and share quickly and efficiently.  Libraries would be well-served by exploring the possible ways in which Pinterest can promote their services and connect them with their patrons.


Eder, Steve. “Pinterest Extends Olive Branch to Self-Promoters.” Wall Street Journal Online Law Blog March 26, 2012), http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/03/26/pinterest-extends-olive-branch-to-self-promoters/.

Eder, Steve. “Avoiding Pinning Pitfalls: Lawyers Suggest These Guidelines for Users.” Wall Street Journal  (March 13, 2012), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052702304537904577279903531974634.html.

Needleman, Sarah E. and Pui-Wing Tam. “Pinterest’s Rite of Web Passage – Huge Traffic, No Revenue.” Wall Street Journal Online (February 16, 2012), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204792404577225124053638952.html.

Nordin, Kendra. “Pinterest: An image-sharing Internet sensation.” Christian Science Monitor (March 9, 2012), http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Tech/2012/0309/Pinterest-An-image-sharing-Internet-sensation.

Sorenson, Chris. “The new kid in town.” Maclean’s 125, issue 8 (March 5, 2012): 46-47, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=72099829&site=ehost-live.


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