Social Media and Readers’ Advisory: Tumblr

Today I’m in Kansas City at a MALA workshop talking about my favorite things: cats, books, libraries, and tumblr. You can find the slides and additional information from the half day workshop at Kaite Stover’s wiki, but here’s the outline and lots of links to accompany my talk. You can also view my slides in googledocs (the gifs animated there, but don’t in slideshare or a downloaded powerpoint).


What’s tumblr?

The boring answer: a microblogging platform and social media site that supports multimedia content that:

  • Allows you to share text, video, images
  • Blends traditional blog with twitter plus a little instagram thrown in

But what is tumblr *really?*

Tumblr is…

cat gifs


books, reading, and libraries

your favorite authors and publishers

your community


and yes, you have to be careful to avoid NSFW content.

Tumblr is…

184 million blogs!

…and yours could be next.

How does tumblr work?

  • Dashboard stream of never ending content of blogs you follow
  • Reblog or upload original content
  • Ask box for questions
  • Queue or schedule posts
  • Hashtags as discovery tool
    • only first 5 on a post help people find your post – choose wisely
    • curated tags at

Why tumblr for libraries?

vibrant bookish + library community

There are all kinds of bookish people on tumblr. There’s even someone whose job it is to keep the #lit community running. Watch Rachel Fershleiser’s Ted Talk on why she hearts the bookternet.

Then follow librarians and libraries and check out The Millions roundup of literary tumblrs and Buzzfeed’s list of bookish tumblrs. There are entire tumblrs dedicated to RA, like Go Book Yourself. Find your favorite YA authors on tumblr (there are plenty of adult authors, too). There are great bookstores and such, too, like those on this list at Mashable.

reach new audiences

start a conversation with your community

Connect with local tumblr users by searching relevant hashtags and the people who reblog content from local tumblrs. Jump into conversations and start your own. If you have a local social media interest group, talk to them about tumblr. People will be delighted to discover their local library is on tumblr.

diversify (but don’t overextend) your library’s social media efforts

The social media landscape is always changing and evolving. Your Facebook page may have a huge following and great engagement, but if organic reach zeroes out and you’re paying for every post, where will you be? It’s best not to put all your efforts into one platform. At the same time, don’t do so much you can’t maintain them all or just simply duplicate content across all your social media channels. Take the time to learn your community and go where they are and share what interests them.

How do you do readers’ advisory on tumblr?

booklists (don’t be afraid to think outside the box!)

Tumblr is the place to get a little offbeat and unexpected. Instead of doing a straight “romance” list for Valentine’s Day, at LPL I made a post peppered with gifs recommending “spicy” and “sweet” romances, but also “doomed” loved stories, a nonfiction book about romance novels and one about the chemistry of attraction. The gifs told the story and highlighted the eclectic group of titles.

But not every list has to be that complicated. It’s very easy to throw up a set of book covers (up to ten images a post) with some favorite titles in a particular genre , like this post on “urban fantasy for literary snobs.”

graphics and flowcharts (these are crazy popular)

More and more libraries are producing their own readers’ advisory graphics, and tumblr makes them very easy to share. These can be easy to make using free online tools or simple programs like Microsoft Publisher, and readers love sharing them. There’s no need to write a post that is too long to read when you can sum up a read-alike in one or two sentences per title. I’ve previously shared tips for making your own readers’ advisory flowcharts and other graphics.  Really, if I can do it, you can

Luckily, there is tons of this content already on tumblr, and you can share it with your community by reblogging it. You don’t have to produce every post, and they are easy to find, by scrolling through your dashboard or searching through relevant tags. I love this flowchart to help you choose a book based on your favorite Love, Actually subplot and Pickerington Public Library’s charts to help readers pick out which new releases they’d liked to read in 2014.

I think it’s important to contribute original content to the library/bookish/internet community, but am glad that there’s lots of others adding content I can share, especially when it covers subjects that aren’t in my expertise. Tumblr allows you to easily share the content while giving credit to the original creator.

book reviews (especially in gifs!)

There’s no reason that you can’t do traditional book reviews on tumblr. It’s a flexible platform so it will easily accommodate 500 word text posts (longer than is probably overkill, though). But tumblr is a perfect opportunity to review books in unconventional ways.

I love gif reviews—as long as they are on tumblr (I think they are annoying in a regular blog post or on Goodreads). They can be time consuming to do, and I think certain types of books lend themselves well to review in gifs, but they are a lot fun. I’ve reviewed The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Unspoken. Finding a few gifs that can explain the plot and a few that capture your reaction to the book can be much more effective than a verbose review, and a lot more entertaining!

personalized recommendations (through the ask box)

Tumblr has a unique feature that separates it from other social media platforms. Not only can individual users ask the library questions, librarians can share their responses. Users can ask anonymously, which isn’t an option on Facebook or Twitter. This can be a great tool for readers’ advisory. If someone asks for recommendations based on a particular title or author, a librarian can respond and share it with everyone who might also be looking for a great Nordic crime novel. Librarians can offer instructions for asking for personal suggestions, and believe me, it will also happen naturally once you’ve established yourself as an expert who is ready and willing to provide personal service. Librarians have much more space and flexibility in responding, unlike a 140 limit on twitter.

book discussions

Last fall, tumblr started #reblogbookclub, which encouraged tumblr users to read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and discuss it, make fan art about it, and create a community reading experience. It was tons of fun. Tumblr makes a perfect venue for taking a book discussion online, whether it is for a regular book club or a one book, one community event.

Further Reading

 General Tumblr + Libraries posts

Get Giffy with it

Think gifs aren’t an art form? Think again. They’re getting an exhibit at a museum. Gifs are an increasingly common form of communication and have their own set of memes. You can build your own library of content to use. I’ve had individual gifs inspire an entire post. But don’t start there—you can also make your own!

Free online tools for making and finding gifs




I’ll follow up later with anything else I might want to add and  a recap of how libraries can use other social media platforms to connect with readers. Stay tuned!



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