Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Many thanks to Lindy and Claire from the RIce Lake Public Library for this guest post!  They were also featured in a School Library Journal article in August!  Here’s a link to What Makes These Librarians TikTok?

Here is a small sampling of 3 of their TikToks, and you can find more! TikTok username: @ricelakelibrary:

Face Masks

Book Covers

I Can Do It!

Why did we even think about joining TikTok?

Other than one or two of our teens, most aren’t interested in our teen Instagram, and Facebook is dead to Gen Z. We’ve tried Snapchat, which has a couple more of our teens following, but if you’re anywhere near our teen room while it’s occupied, you can almost constantly hear trending TikTok songs and audio. Our old group of 6-10 teens who are in the library on a regular basis, who we know are a vulnerable population, were always showing TikTok’s to us.

Lindy made her own personal TikTok out of curiosity, and got a feel for it. She had heard of some funny users and followed them first. After our COVID closure, we realized our teens who are in the library daily aren’t getting teen library news via any other platform, so Claire decided we should try a library TikTok. Not knowing if anything would come of it, Lindy threw together an account for us with an easy-to-find, easy-to-spell username, and the familiar sign from our teen room as the profile photo so our teens would recognize the account was ours/theirs.

How we got started and the best practices we discovered along the way

Lindy knew she had to find other libraries, or at least book lovers, using TikTok in order to get ideas for content.She tried an online search first. Usually you can find an article highlighting specific types of accounts for platforms, but she found nothing! Finally by stumbling around TikTok searching keywords, she found a video by @tokstarlibrarians, (who only had the 1 video upload), tagging a bunch of librarians on TikTok who are making some awesome content!

Accounts like @blacklibrariansrock, @unicornlibrarian @gvhslibrary @akbusybee @kathyellendavis @dz_library @24hourlibrary @ozlibraries @mrspopeslibrary and @teachingtardis are great first follows for ideas. And they’re nice enough to follow back, giving you a good follower base, and possibly your first likes!

From there, the goal is to share library info through humor, book suggestions with music or a fun (preferably easy) dance, craft walkthroughs with fun text. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination! Watch what’s trending to see what catches Gen Z’s attention. If you’re really stuck, you can search for TikTok “compilations” on Youtube. Be warned: Not all are PG. Maybe stick “light-hearted” or “clean” in your search.

We have been making sure that we “like” all the videos that we think we can put an RLPL twist on to give us ideas for content. We’re not posting a ton, minimum once a week, but as always in library services, there’s really wonderful content already out there, no need to recreate the wheel all the time! Also, if you hear a song that you like on a video, by clicking on the little song circle image in the bottom right, you can add it to a “favorites” list,  that way you aren’t searching through endless music for that perfect song. Claire also recommends clicking on everything, she had no clue what she was doing when she made the first few videos and learned by touching everything on the screen.  NOTHING gets posted until a very clear, final screen, so don’t worry about someone seeing your embarrassing attempt at a dance!

Explaining TikTok to others and justifying the use

It’s a short video creator! And we know that teens are looking for something fast and fun. Right now, what’s popular is learning and resharing a short dance that’s trending–usually with a specific song that goes with it. People sometimes make these unique by putting text that pops up throughout the dance that shares their opinion on something. Based on who you follow and give “likes” to, TikTok will give you new suggested videos in your “For You” tab. This is how you can discover new things if you don’t want to browse the Discover tab–which is currently-trending content.

The great thing about the accounts we’re following is the joy and the sense of humor that goes into their content. It’s infectious and makes you want to keep scrolling. There is so much freedom for creativity, and the fun! You can go as simple or complex as you want. You can show how you created something by filming short cuts throughout the process, use a provided template to put in a slideshow of photos with fun filters and transitions, or show your favorite books with a favorite song overtop. It’s cool how easy it is to edit together a creative video without being a professional, or having fancy editing software. Gen Z has probably watched A LOT of Youtube creators who have to use pricey software to create their content, but now these creators and their viewers are creating content with quick, funny, or beautiful ideas and talents with relative ease! Not to discredit the truly amazing videos on TikTok that would blow your mind, of course, because there is SO much talent on there.

Claire can’t stress enough how easy it is to use, and how easily you can reach your teens with TikTok. They were so excited/embarrassed to see us!  We know TikTok probably won’t last, and we’ll have to move on to the next platform, but it’s worth it to make those connections with your library teens.  We’d love to help other libraries get started!

Lindy Liedl, Library Assistant, she/her,

Claire Parrish, Public Services Director, she/her,