Social media is a powerful tool, and every day those in the literary community are using it for a wide array of activities and initiatives. Twitter has been, perhaps the most heavily used, with the success of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign and the various twitter pitch parties throughout the year. This time around the New York Public Library has thrown their hat in the social media ring with their highly popular #Ireadeverywhere initiative. Below read an article about the campaign via Library Journal.
On August 5, the New York Public Library (NYPL) launched a social media initiative using the hashtag #Ireadeverywhere. Participants post pictures of themselves on social media reading something—books, e-readers, magazines—in whatever location they want using the designated hashtag. Contributors have gotten creative with their submissions. People took pictures of themselves reading at hair salons, in front of the United Nations building, and on ferries and subways. Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale (McClelland and Stewart, 1985), took a photo reading among wildflowers. The popular Sesame Street character Cookie Monster shared a picture of himself reading at his grandmother’s house, and actress Mayim Bialik of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory uploaded a photo of herself reading in a chair while getting her hair and makeup ready for filming.
“The response to this initiative has been tremendous,” said Angela Montefinise, NYPL’s director of media relations. “Readers from across the globe have participated, sharing photos of themselves reading…in wrestling rings, in tattoo chairs, and just about everywhere else. The campaign has allowed us to spark real excitement around reading, as well as interest in the New York Public Library and all libraries.” Montefinise called the initiative “our most successful social media endeavor to date,” and there is data to support her claim. Johannes Neuer, NYPL’s director of digital engagement, says, “According to hashtracking.com, the library secured 35 million impressions with this campaign, and that’s just on Twitter alone.” The library staged the campaign on all of its social media accounts, including Instagram, which Neuer said led to hundreds of new followers. The thousands of participants generated about 10,000 tweets, and with celebrities like Mindy Kaling and LeVar Burton participating, some of those reached millions in the Twitterverse. NYPL has benefited from the online buzz. “The campaign generated 15,000 visits to the library’s website,” Neuer said, noting that approximately half of those were from first-time visitors. “So, we did reach new audiences and raise awareness with this campaign.”The Clinton Foundation was one of the organizations that took part in the initiative. It tweeted a picture of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reading to her daughter Chelsea one Christmas morning when Chelsea was very young. “Reading aloud regularly to young children is one of the most effective ways to enrich early language and literacy skills that are essential for school readiness,” said Patti Miller, director of the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail program, which focuses on closing the word gap, meaning the difference in vocabulary and literacy levels between socioeconomic classes. “We hope this image…inspired parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to read to their own children from the very beginning.”
Reading Rainbow also helped publicize the campaign. “From my perspective, this campaign is a brilliant way to illustrate the adventure of reading—something that’s not easy to discuss because with books, the adventure is unfolding in your imagination,” said Jenni Buchanan, online community manager. “The goal with this campaign was to promote reading, libraries, and literacy, and it aligned perfectly with our goals,” she explained.
Although the goal of the campaign is a classic library activity—fostering interest in and excitement about reading—it still reflects the changing roles of libraries and the evolution of how they interact with the communities they serve, and not only in its use of technology. “Promoting reading may seem an obvious thing for a library, but in today’s world it’s clear we need to shift from mainly opening our doors and letting people in to actively reaching out to cultivate experiences around reading, [and] experiences that let readers share with each other, in person, and online,” said Christopher Platt, acting vice president of public service and director of reader services for NYPL.
Montefinese said she thinks what makes the campaign effective is: “It was simple. It asked people to post photos of themselves with a hashtag and handle—that’s it,” adding that celebrity participation was also helpful. Furthermore, she acknowledges that the wording of the hashtag itself, one letter specifically, made an impact. “The hashtag included an ‘I,'” she said. “It allowed [people] to share their love and pride for reading. We know people feel very strongly about their personal book choices, and this gave them a way to express that.”
One lesson of the campaign, Montefinese said, “is that libraries can share their mission and make a real impact on the online conversation without big marketing dollars. Most libraries are working with very limited budgets [for promotion]. With social media and some creativity, libraries can promote themselves extremely effectively, generating engagement and excitement without financial investment.”