12 Insta Easy Instagram Library & Literacy Promotion Ideas

This is a mirror to a guest blog post on the YALSA blog
WARNING: This post may take a while to load because of several embedded Instagram posts. 

What’s the point of Instagram and why should you spend your precious time and money on it? Well, don’t worry about the cost, because it’s FREE! So, all you really need is creativity and a few
minutes a day to make meaningful, fun, and lasting connections with your community. And with Instagram you get a twofer! Even maybe a threefer, fourfer?! (is that a thing?) That’s right, for the amazing low price of FREE, each Instagram post can cross pollinate to your Twitter, Facebook (:-P), Flickr, Tumblr, and that thing called Swarm that kinda took the place of the annoying Foursquare? That’s pretty powerful!

But to be truly effective with those connections using social media, your graphics, caption copy-writing, conversation, and photography skills should strive to be, positive, professional, and on point. Realize, however, that those skills will be mostly self-taught. But that’s ok, that’s where I come in. We’ve got this! I’ve gathered ten really easy Instagram ideas you can implement tomorrow. You know, librarians can do anything when they set their minds to it! Using social media for library, literacy, book, and program promotion is all about storytelling. And we are born storytellers! The idea is that you’re curating your feed to include online what you would do in person -be influential, personal, relevant, humorous, and educational. 

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1. Shelfies
The easiest way to share on Instagram is taking the humble shelfie. Like a selfie, but with a book? Asking teens and patrons to hold up the book they just checked out or are returning are called shelfies. I always ask if they want to take a shelfie, and never give any guilt trips if they’re too shy or would prefer not to.

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But most of my teens love to show off their latest book, and even tag themselves in the picture! Holding up a mustache bookmark is just a bonus. I mustache you to believe me in this!

2. Book Promotion

Using both Instagram stills and up to 60 seconds of video you can easily create engaging book promotions or mini book advertisements using Instagram. Consider the theme, setting, or characters in a book and create a mini-tableau for a photo shoot. Consider taking a few favorite books on a field trip. Some of the best examples of this can be found on Maxwell J Lucas’s Instagram for his school, Glenthorne Library High School Library in South London aka @glenthorne_library. In fact, Maxwell’s whole Instagram account is a best practice for a most of these tips and ideas. He’s the real deal. For example, the photo above - The Man in the High Tower by Phillip K. Dick - did he find the tower first and bring the book later? Either way, brilliant! 

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Video book promotions can be staged as mini-commercials, trailers, or as book talks. Above is an example of one of my teens Dominic, who is a loyal Tim Green sports book fan, and his impromptu book talk on Instagram that was straight from the heart. We had to shoot it twice, because the first time included a spoiler! Make sure to tell kiddos, never include spoilers in their book talks. Not every kid can do a book talk like Dom, without a script, so give the kiddos the option to write it out, practice it a couple times, and are willing to do a few takes before they’re truly comfortable.

Dear @timgreenbooks Hi! This is my 7th Grade student Dominic who is a SUPER FAN of yours. He's read every Tim Green book we have of yours in our school Library 📚, which is pretty much every book! For him, I make sure to pre-order every new book you write. He also likes to book talk & encourage other kids to read your books! He's like a one man PR machine for your work! It would be really cool if you could give a shout out or say hi and I would pass it along to him! Also, since this is the time of year of giving in miracles, maybe in the new year you would consider a quick Skype visit to his Reading class. Thought I would just throw it out there, you know like a football! 🏈 And from me, thank you for writing books that get my kids excited about reading! ~Gwyneth- The Daring Librarian 😎
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Promotional Post-It-Book Reviews

Here’s a low tech example of easy book promotion using just post-it notes. To create this interactive display, I just put out a clipboard with sticky notes, a small tin of golf pencils, and a color

copy of @librarian_tiff’s Awesome poster in a plastic stand up. Have kiddos write a quick sticky note about what they liked about the book and stick it on for other kids to read it. Instagram a picture of that note for posterity, and so that other digital kiddos can see it.

I had this display set up about three years ago, and it ran strong for about year then petered out so I put it away. How did it make a come back? With a kiddo just deciding out of the blue and unprompted to write the above fantastic review last week brought the interactive display back out into our library. It’s good to move things around and be ready to cycle displays in and out of your facility - keeps them fresh! Voila! 

3. Book Face
Book covers that feature faces or part of faces, or backs, or legs, or arms are great to hold up and take for what is now called a #BookFace picture. Try to guide teens not be so literal with biographies or celebrity face covers. Though literal interpretations can start the ball rolling!

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Creative staging again can be key - costume and props add to the fun! Bookface duo’s are also charming! For some inspiration, check out the 27 thousand plus examples if you search out the Instagram hashtag #BookfaceFriday


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These are super addictive to do! I could see a fun activity where kids compete for the best and most creative #BookFaceFriday.

4. Program Promotion

 Got a great story telling event coming up? Have a Coloring Corner, Lego Wall, or a Makerspace area? How about an upcoming author visit? Or just a regular storytelling day! It’s easy to either promote or share that program using Instagram. Events become fun fodder for great program promotion, when you have your phone handy and are ready to snap and share the awesome things that happens every day in your library. 

5. #BookDropLife
This one is easy and fast to do and I’ve yet to try it! Just stack and take a picture of the popular books that just got returned! Right now, mine would always include Sisters and at least one Manga! This way, teens can come in and grab what was just returned!  
UPDATE: I did a #BookDropLife! And really, people - it's SO easy! 


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6. New Book Reveal 

Unboxing new books is the BEST! Let others get into the fun of that exciting reveal by taking pictures or videos of the unveiling. This example is from my friend and California library professional, Mary Clark, who has been on the forefront of leveraging the power of Instagram and information curation for years. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas from her.

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7. Caught Reading
Catch teens and patrons reading. Take their picture, then ask if it’s OK to post on Instagram. OR, totally pose it! It encourages teens to rest, relax, and read.
Or listen!

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I’ve also taken pictures of my teens listening to audio books - almost seems like they’re napping! Wake up Gabe, 8th grade recess is over! Either way, these caught reading photos are contagious, you’ll find that kids will come in, read conspicuously, and almost beg to be highlighted on your Instagram.

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8. Reading and Library Quotes
It’s great fun to mix it up and create a graphics maker like Photoshop, PicMonkey.com, or Recite.com to create good looking quotes that inspire the reader in all of us and post to Instagram! Tech tip: I use my Dropbox or Flickr to get them to my mobile devices.

9. Mini-Virtual Tours

Use Instagram video to create mini virtual tours of your library and it’s features. Get creative, remember stop action, add music, use interesting angles, and add signage or text overlay to jazz it up. Tech Tip: Flipagram is a great FREE video editing app that lets you include animated drawings, text overlay, stickers, and popular music in 30 second clips and then either download to your phone or share with Instagram. For a $1.99 you can even take off the Flipagram watermark. 

10. Insta-Contests
Instagram is a great way to share and run a contest with the community! It gives an opportunity for people to chime in, answer questions, and interact with you. Pick your winner from those who leave comments, follow, or share related original content. It’s a fun and easy way to get the community involved. 


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11. Book Displays
Confession, I hate making book displays. My creative powers are there, but mostly for graphic design. So, when I do create a book display, I try and show it off using Instagram. 

12. Be on Trend
Jump on the latest hashtag trend but give it a book or library spin! This can happen on both Instagram and on Twitter. In fact, one of my most liked and re-tweeted posts was the one above. When you see a trending hashtag in the Social Media or Instagram world, why not have some fun and give it a whirl?  

So, give a professional Instagram account a whirl! Connect it to your Twitter and any other Social Media outlets that you utilize to promote the awesome that happens every day in your school! 

--------Stop! BUT WAIT!--------
What if you're not sure you're allowed to take pics of kids or are afraid of repercussions? I always get this at conferences and in the comments - Well, here's a few ideas!

If you're worried about that a LOT of great pictures can be taken from behind the kiddos, over their shoulders, cropped out faces, all artsy like! You would not believe how kids know their own hands, backs of heads, arms, or even toes!

OR for bookface, have them hold the books in front of their whole face - same with SHELFIES - have them peek over the the top of the book. 

BE Creative!

Don't let these worries keep you from sharing the AWESOME that happens every day in your school, classroom, or Library!


Resources & Credits:

Lowering the tone: doing social media at Bodleian Libraries

Some of the best and most inspiring ideas I ever got about sharing on Instagram for libraries was from this article by @AdamKoszary the guy who sparked Bodleian feed.


This inspiring and illustrative blog post was written by my friend Mary Clark of @libraryatsems. She’s a must follow on Twitter, too! Mary Clark (@SEMSLibraryLady)

Social Media Resources 101 for the School Librarian from School Library Journal

20+ EASY Ways to Make Picture Quotes Online!

Some recent and related posts:
4 Fun FREE Apps to Win The Instagram Game
Social Media Mind Shift
6 Ways to Avoid Those Social Media Landmines

A Shockingly Private Blog Post About Social Media



  1. I love these ideas!! Especially the unveiling of new books and popular returned books! I can imagine you have many students wanting to get in on the posts! Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jen! I LOVE real comments from real people! Would love to see & follow what you're doing - please Tweet/Instagram at me mentioning this when you get a chance!

      Cheers! ~Gwyneth

  2. I love these! And it seems like a great way to use "the Gram!" Did you have to get permission for using pics of students? or do you have a policy? I'm not sure how to address privacy concerns. (question you get a lot I'm sure)

    1. I've addressed this before in Social Media posts, but it's worth repeating: if you're worried about that a LOT of great pictures can be taken from behind the kiddos - they know their own hands, backs of heads, arms, even toes!

      OR for bookface, have them hold the books in front of their whole face - same with SHELFIES - have them peek over the the top of the book. BE Creative!

      Don't let the worries keep you from sharing the AWESOME that happens every day in your school, classroom, or Library!

  3. Thank you so much for all the fun ideas! I absolutely know what you mean about Instagram being the Facebook of the younger generation.
    I especially love your book promotion ideas. I think I will start with the simpler ones like book face and #bookdroplife and then work my way up to videos.
    I was wondering if you would be willing to share any of your past Insta-Contest ideas? Especially ones that ended up being popular with your kids.
    Also just out of curiosity, do you try to hit a certain number of posts each week?

    1. Aww thank you so much for your kind words & comment! It's such a treat when I see a real comment & not a SPAM offer for report writing services! .... As for the Instagrams - Yes! Start simple! Book Drop Life (Don't forget the hashtag, #BookDropLife!) Pics of kids reading, new books, book displays, unboxing videos, and my favorite - the #Shelfie!

      I don't have any kind of pattern or specific number of posts a week - I just take pics when inspired. I also sometimes take the pics during the day and in my off moments - that evening or on the weekend - post them. Also, I would suggest posting some around the school of other taecher's classes. That's a great way to model positive social media use & make your classroom teachers happy! Cheers dear!

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