TikTok: 8 Ways Libraries Are Using It

**This post is an introduction to the ways TikTok can be used by libraries/librarians. In the coming weeks I will make subsequent posts about “How TikTok is Taking the Book World By Storm,” and “how libraries can grow a successful TikTok.”**

As many of my readers know, I am a HUGE fan of TikTok being used by libraries/librarians. In a little over 2 years I’ve grown our library’s tiktok account (@gvhslibrary) to an inexplicable 45,000+ followers, and I’ve found the platform to be a singularly powerful tool for advocacy (& securing additional funding), community building, collection development (especially diverse collection dev), readers advisory, and more.

Anyone working in libraries or bookworld have also likely heard by now about the phenomena of #Booktok, and you may have heard about or begun to notice the incredible ways #Booktok is impacting the publishing world and teen reading habits. I’ll talk more on this in next week’s post!

About a year and a half ago I started to receive requests from school districts and library associations asking me to provide their librarians with PD surrounding social media & TikTok for librarians. I’m really enjoying offering those PD sessions because I truly believe that social media is the best tool a librarian can have in their toolbox.

I’ve written other posts about TikTok but its been a while so I thought it was time for a new series of posts. In this first post I’ll detail some of the many ways I’ve found success using TikTok for our library, and I’ll try to make a case for why librarians, especially teen librarians, should absolutely be using TikTok in at least some capacity.


What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform in which users create and/or watch unique video content. The videos are usually less than 15 seconds long, though they can now go as long as 3 minutes in length. The videos are usually set to a sound clip (usually a popular song or a clip from a popular movie or tv show).

What kind of videos are on TikTok?

Literally every kind you could possible think of, including but not limited to:

  • Dance Trends (the original TikTok video)
  • Trending Challenges (Sadly the Devious Licks challenge is an example of a harmful challenge, but not all of them are harmful, many are silly, creative, and positive.)
  • Humor (so many ppl are truly hilarious on tiktok)
  • Feel Good (lots of kitten videos….. and they’re all delightful)
  • Satire/Social Criticism
  • Social Justice Movements & Discourse
  • Instructional/Educational (you can learn just about anything on TikTok)
  • Advocacy / Marketing (you’ll notice LOTS of authors and companies joining tiktok …. its like free-to-make commercials)
  • Community – fandoms and communities grow

Who is on TikTok…. is it only Teenagers?

No it is NOT only teenagers on TikTok these days. You can truly find all kinds of people, from all different age groups, on TikTok. Authors are joining in droves, Teachers are on there doing bitesize lessons, or showing off science experiments, or creating quick math tutorials. Artists are on there showing off their artwork and processes. Athletes are there showing off their training and accomplishments (team USA is there!). Musicians and Theater groups are there to hype up and show off their shows (Hamilton is on TikTok, just sayin!). There are Holocaust survivors on TikTok telling their stories and answering questions, educating people about the Holocaust. There are car mechanics on TikTok teaching their followers all kinds of tips for taking care of and fixing their cars. There are plumbers giving away free tutorials on how to fix everyday home improvement issues. There are fitness coaches. There are doctors on TikTok working hard to educate the populace on things like why vaccines are safe, they’re out there using TikTok to try to combat our anti-science misinformation problem. There are journalists using TikTok to share the news. There are social justice movement leaders using the platform to organize and disseminate information. There are politicians on TikTok. There are TikToks that will teach you how to make recipes, how to fold fitted sheets, cleaning tips & hacks, tech tips, and more. There are pet-centered tiktoks such as the one where an elderly pug named Noodle decides whether we are having a “bones” day or a “no bones” day (@jongraz). There is even an account dedicted entirely to the life & experiences of a cat named Buster who lives in a mechanic shop (@buster_and_brothers). There are readers of all ages sharing their favorite books. There are scholars teaching the populace about everything from feminism to critical race theory to any other topic you could be interested in learning about. There are film critics, video game streamers, veterinarians, human resources people…..The list goes on and on and on.

Oh, and there are librarians, of course!

So let’s talk about exactly what librarians are using TikTok for.


#1. Marketing Books (Readers Advisory & Digital Book Displays)

One of the most fun ways a librarian can use TikTok is to create #booktok videos. A #booktok video is just any TikTok video that has to do with books! Sometimes it might be a digital book display, maybe even using fun transitions such as is seen below. Or it might be a book talk booktok… using TikTok to create a video where you book talk/market a particular book. You might even use TikTok to record some simple & short book reviews. When it comes to using TikTok to create engaging videos to market books to your students, you’re limited only by your own imagination. There is a seriously incredible community of #Booktokkers on TikTok, people who use TikTok to share their love of books and librarians are really missing out on this awesome community if they keep ignoring TikTok. I will talk in the next blog post (next week) more about #BookTok and how it is having serious impacts on teen reading habits and the publishing industry. For now, here are some examples of BookTok videos I made…. you can see how I use them as a way of creating a digital book display to show off different books we have in the library. I frequently have students come in to ask for the books they saw in my TikTok videos. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing.

#2. Collection Development

Especially Diverse Collection Development!!! TikTok, specifically #booktok, is an absolute GOLD MINE of collection development information for librarians. It is seriously an INCREDIBLE resource to help you learn about new and upcoming book release, see what people are saying about them, and get plenty of ideas about which books you might want to add to your collection. This is especially true if you are working intentionally to redevelop your collection with more diversity, representation, and inclusivity (and I hope you are working on that, because we all should be working on that). If you are intentional in seeking out lots of diverse #booktokkers, then you will fill your feed with the thoughts, opinions, and voices of people who come from historically excluded communities. Many of these Booktokkers focus on spreading the word about books with authors and/or characters who are: of color, disabled, queer, of non-standard body sizes and shapes, of non-U.S. birth or citizenship, etc. If you intentionally curate a diverse “who i follow on tiktok” list then your TikTok feed will regularly help you find new and diverse books to add to the collection. And the best part is that this is both a FUN and FREE collection development resource!

Suggested Booktokkers and library accounts to follow include (but are not limited to!):

  • @keny_reads_a_lot
  • @thenextgenlibrarian
  • @elizabethlimwriter
  • @mynameismarines
  • @kevintnorman
  • @hosyreadsbooks
  • @bookish_afrolatina
  • @miggle.reads
  • @johneepixels
  • @blackgaycomicgeek
  • @thelaynierose
  • @caseymcquiston
  • @bookshelf_lis
  • @dhcls_youth
  • @businesslibrarian
  • @boss_librarian
  • @historyb00ks
  • @sarinagov
  • @mustangpubliclibrary
  • @achilleanshelves
  • @hellotinymj
  • @vinny0190
  • @moongirlreads
  • @raethereviewer
  • @breana_reads
  • @librarymrsdaniels
  • @ezeekat
  • @aidenschmaiden
  • @heraa_reads
  • @victoriaaveyard
  • @mychal3ts
  • @jennaslitpicks
  • @justgreggy
  • @maya.reads
  • @mygaybookcase
  • @abookinbed
  • @thebookishmusllim
  • @akbusybee
  • @teachinatardis
  • @penguin_teen
  • @mrspopeslibrary
  • @chsbookmasters
  • @comsewogue.library

#3. Bitesize PD

Another way Librarians can utilize TikTok is as a way of learning more things about librarianship, education, teaching, issues in the bookworld (especially regarding the lack of diversity in publishing), etc. Basically TikTok can function as free bite-sized PD opportunities. If you focus on curating a thoughtful and intentional following list, then your feed will often be filled with lots of opinions, facts, thoughts, and ideas that you can learn and grow from. I know people still associate TikTok with teens dancing but it has grown FAR beyond that and is in fact a digital sphere where many important discussions are taking place.

You can even use it to learn about things that while not directly book or library related, can help you become a better school librarian. For example, I personally have very little experience with Muslim or Indigenous cultures, but I know I could better serve my students by increasing my knowledge, understanding, and cultural competency on these cultures. To help learn more I follow accounts such as: @mehdinatv (a Muslim husband and wife educate their followers on the myths and truths of being Muslim), and @notoriouscree, @modern_warrior_, @che.jim, and @shinanova (these accounts are run by Indigenous creators who take time to share information about Indigenous culture with their followers). I follow accounts like @herspective to increase my understanding of feminism. There are great accounts to follow for any topic you want to increase your awareness and understanding of. I learn so much about the lack of diversity in publishing from authors & readers on TikTok, issues in education that are discussed by the Teachers & Principals & Students on TikTok, how to bring more equity practices into the library from other Librarians…. the sky is the limit on what you can learn on TikTok. Bite-Size PD, trust me… its awesome!

#4. Advocacy

One of my most favorite, and successful, ways of utilizing TikTok for my library is for advocacy. As librarians we know that we are combatting a lot of outdated and harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings about what librarians and (properly funded & staffed) libraries do for their communities in this modern, tech-rich world. The absurd image of a mean bun-wearing, perpetually shushing woman whose main prerogative is in protecting the books, is, sadly, still what many people picture when they think of libraries and librarians. The ideas that google has somehow solved all of the world’ information needs, and that “no one reads anymore anyway” are disturbingly prevalent, even though we, the trained information professionals, know these ideas are patently untrue. In schools it is common to find teachers & admin who think things like: ebooks will replace physical books so we don’t need to buy physical books anymore, manga/graphic novels are “lesser” forms of reading that should be discouraged, audiobooks aren’t “real” reading, kids need to “read on their level,” and the misconceptions & misinformation continues from there.

We, the librarians, know this. We know all of this. We know that somehow, somewhere, along the way we lost control of the narrative regarding libraries and reading. We lost our community’s faith and with the fall of that faith in our value has come the drastic fall in funding, support, and staffing for libraries. So we KNOW that advocacy is so important, more important than it has ever been before. We know that we have to get our stories out there, that we have to “show and tell” our communities what value we bring to them. We know that we have to educate, advocate, and reframe the purpose and philosophy of the modern library so that our communities regain understanding of our role, and relearn how to properly value themselves by valuing their libraries. And yet, marketing and advocating is not easy. Its time consuming, difficult, and unwieldy. It can even be expensive….. running ad campaigns & advocacy efforts are not free, they can cost a lot in time, energy, and resources. So we are learning how to become experts at leveraging the power of social media to get our stories out there. And I have to tell you, TikTok is about the most powerful tool I’ve come across yet for advocacy. The sheer volume of the potential audience…. its massive and unlike the other socials.

Why? Its because of the algorithm and the ability to cross-promote your TikTok videos across other platforms… resharing, embedding, etc allows these video messages to spread FAR. And the TikTok algorithm allows for incredible audience reach potential. It is actually possible for any average person to go viral on TikTok, even to go viral many times. (I’ll write a post in a few weeks to provide tips and strategies for how to increase your likelihood of getting your videos viral.) Since anyone can go viral on TikTok (something that is much less likely on twitter or instagram), that means that your tiktok videos could be seen by a lot of people. And this means your advocacy efforts can have more reach than we’re used to seeing.

I use TikTok as an advocacy tool. I use it to educate both my local and the wider global community about what librarians and libraries actually do for their communities, why and how we serve our communities, and the ways our communities benefit because of our efforts. I make videos to clarify misconceptions, show off our efforts, to educate about little known “behind the scenes” work we do, the diversity efforts we are working towards, the inequity issues we strive to bridge, and more. I use TikTok videos to provide transparency and education on topics so there will be less confusion and pushback on things like my diversity audit, my ditching of Dewey, my LGBTQIA+ book displays, etc. This source of advocacy has been extremely successful for me and my library. Our school community: the students, parents, admin, community members, and even some board members have all provided positive feedback about our TikTok account. There is actually a lot of enjoyment and pride on their part about the success of the TikTok account I run, and the messaging and storytelling I’ve leveraged it for has resulted in increased admin and board support of our library. Parent support has also grown, and the number of collaboration requests and even donations I receive has gone up with the success of my TikTok advocacy.

Some examples of my advocacy tiktok videos include:

#5. Community Building – Communicating Library’s Philosophy

Using TikTok for community building has been another successful strategy for me, especially in the COVID-era, where its even more important than ever for libraries to have a strong and dynamic digital community presence. As a school librarian I strive to establish the library’s physical space as a safe, vibrant, welcoming, engaging, and relatable place in my student’s lives. But, even when schools are fully in person, the school day still is only so long and the fact is that most of our student’s lives occur outside of the school’s physical walls. I don’t want my student’s connection to their library to occur only during the school day when they are physically present in their school building.

The school library is not a room, it’s a community, and that community and connection should stretch far beyond the walls of the school. This is why it is so critical that libraries work to establish a robust and engaging digital community presence, and I have found Instagram and TikTok to be especially successful for building such a community. To that end I like to use TikTok to create a wide variety of videos that simply establish & communicate the library’s “vibe,” philosophies, priorities, and community. Sometimes the videos are as simple as sharing things the library offers, of sharing my opinions so they get to know their librarian a little bit. Sometimes its a chance to show them the personality of their librarian and the “personality” of their library, a chance to be silly, a chance to be inspirational, a chance to try to simply bring a smile to my student’s faces. These videos range widely in topic and type, but they are always made with the simple intention of creating a moment of connection…. a moment in my student’s lives OUTSIDE of the school day, and outside of the school building, where they are looking at their phone, browsing their social media, and wham! There’s their school library. And there’s a moment of connection, a brief reminder that they belong to this school library community, that they are not alone but are a part of. Such a simple but powerful thing, a single moment of connection.

Other impacts are that the other community members: parents, admin, board members, former students, etc get to engage with the library too, thanks to our robust digital community presence. Its important to use social media to act as a window, a window that allows our community members (especially the ones who don’t get to actually physically spend much time in the library) to experience and connect with their student’s school library. This is a powerful connection too, and one that helps them feel more motivated to support and fund the library. If they feel a connection to it, it feels more important to their lives. Its harder to forget about your school library when its showing up in your social media feeds all the time, afterall. 🙂

#6. Announcements – Community Message Board

This one is one of the more obvious uses for TikTok, but still powerful! TikTok is a create content creation tool that we can use to announce things to our communities! Video content is incredibly successful medium for conveying information in this current era, and people – especially young people – are far more likely to watch a short video than they are to read a text-based announcement. Librarians can take advantage of this level of engagement to use tiktok to make videos to announce…. well pretty much anything! I use TikTok to announce when new resources have been added to the library (new books, new makerspace activities, etc), to announce and hype up programs such as author visits, to announce grants we’ve won….. pretty much anything you want your community to know can be announced via a tiktok video. And the best part is that TikTok is actually INCREDIBLY easy to use…. as a video editor its definitely one of the most user-friendly and intuitive editors I’ve ever used, which means its actually something that most librarians can figure out and successfully use to make videos. For example, I find it MUCH easier to whip up a quick video in TikTok than I do in iMovie, Adobe, or any other video editor I’ve tried. You can add stickers, arrows, text, text to speech, voice-overs, transitions, AND CAPTIONS all right within the TikTok editor. Easy-peasey, my friends.

#7. Instructional Tutorials

Another way I like to use TikTok is to create short tutorials or instructional videos on …. well pretty much any topic. How to use makerspace items tutorials, how to access our ebooks, how to search databases, media literacy tips, etc etc. Basically anytime I want to make a tutorial for something I do my best to keep it under 1 minute long so that I can just film and edit it in the TikTok app (actually tiktok now allows up to 3 minute long videos YAY!). I find recording and editing tutorials to be, in general, annoying and lengthy processes in most of the editors I’ve used…. but I find it to be very simple and fast to do in the TikTok editor. Easy to film segments, add voiceover, add text, add captions, add arrows, etc. And you can even add a song to the background. I love it.

Now it is important to note that I do not require students to actually access TikTok in order to view these tutorials. Nope! That is not necessary. What I do is download the video off of my TikTok account and upload it to where every student can access it, even if they don’t use social media. So I might embed it on the library website, into our Canvas module, onto our youtube page, etc. I would not want tutorials and important information to be accessible only on TikTok, because some students and parents opt not to use social media and I want the important information to be equally accessible to all students. That’s another reason I like TikTok, actually…. its super simple to create videos in tiktok that you can upload and use elsewhere…. which brings me to #8…

#8. Supplements other social media platforms

One of the strongest aspects of TikTok, and one I think a lot of librarians and educators fail to notice, is that it is EXCELLENT for supplementing other social media platforms, communication efforts, websites, etc. You do not have to make TikTok your main communication platform in order to benefit from TikTok. TikTok videos make excellent supplements to your other communication efforts. The videos are fun and engaging, and not difficult to make. Its a form of content that can be great to add and weave into your other communication strategies to spice them up or to add some variety. So, if you already have a newsletter that gets a lot of community engagement you certainly don’t need to stop doing that and start focusing on TikTok instead! But you can occasionally add a TikTok video to your newsletter…. use a TikTok or two to add some variety to the content you add to your newsletter.

The same thing goes for other social platforms. If you already run a successful instagram, facebook, or twitter account for your library you don’t need to switch gears and turn your main focus onto tiktok instead. But you can occasionally share a TikTok you made on your already successful instagram, facebook, twitter, website, etc. TikTok videos are easy to share/upload/embed on other platforms. They can be a good content form to add into the mix so you’re not always sharing only text-based or picture-based content. Adding some video content into your communication toolbox can be a good thing.

For example, even though I’ve grown our library tiktok to over 45,000 followers (which is ridiculous and mind-blowing, and a little baffling, by the way) the TikTok account is actually not my main communication platform. I consider our library’s instagram (@gvhslibrary) to be our main social media platform. That is the platform that I gear specifically towards communicating information to my local school community…. whereas the TikTok account functions a bit more broadly, the messages there often intended for a wider global audience rather than narrowed in on my local school community. The instagram is where I place most of my intentional focus, though, and is the one I consider the main priority. Most of my students and school community don’t actually see my tiktok videos on tiktok…. they actually see my tiktok videos on instagram! Because I share the TikTok videos that are relevant to my school community (or just the ones I think they’ll enjoy) on our instagram stories. So my community does not actually need to be active on TikTok itself in order to benefit from or enjoy my TikTok videos. I use the videos to supplement my Instagram so I don’t have to create unique content for both my instagram and my tiktok accounts…. I use tiktok to supplement the Insta. Cross promotion of content is efficient.

Bonus Round:

Can you use TikTok for your library without having to actually make your own tiktoks? YES!

I talked a lot here about the kinds of videos you might make but its important that I point out that you don’t have to create your own videos in order to utilize TikTok for your library. Its great if you want to, and I personally think its a great form of original content creation for librarians to use. But there are other ways to still use TikTok for your library even if you don’t personally want to actually create your own videos!

  1. Browse tiktok yourself to learn new things or for collection development
    1. I talk above in #2 & #3 more about how you can personally use tiktok to learn about different topics, increase your understanding and cultural competence, and to learn about books for collection development.
  2. Share other creator’s videos on your library’s socials … especially content from diverse creators!
    1. Even if you don’t want (or don’t have time) to create your own unique tiktoks, you can still follow excellent #booktokkers (and other creators) and re-share their content onto the social media platforms you do run for your library. I love to do this, for a couple reasons:
      1. It amplifies diverse voices
        1. Its a good thing to connect my students with voices that differ from my own. I don’t want them to associate the library with Miss Bogan’s personal voice & opinion. Its important to me that I model the importance of amplifying diverse voices, and one way to do this is to share content created by a diverse variety of people on our library’s social media platforms.
      2. It diversifies the voice coming from the library
        1. Because I’m a solo librarian, and I alone run our library’s social media accounts, if I only share content on our socials that I have personally created that means my students are only ever getting exposed to one person’s viewpoint, opinion, and experience. By utilizing other creator’s content I get to ensure my students can enjoy a variety of voices.
      3. It is easy, “no work for me” content
        1. From a practical standpoint, sharing other creator’s content is actually super efficient and a great time-saver. Being able to re-share other creator’s content on my library’s socials (with correct attribution/tags of course) allows me to keep our library social’s active with new content every day…. without me actually having to find time to create unique content every day myself.

So, even if you aren’t going to make your own tiktok, you can definitely still leverage the power of tiktok for your library in other ways. As an example, I follow several Queer booktokkers and when they create #booktok videos highlighting LGBTQIA+ books, and we have many of the books in our library, I like to share those videos on our library’s instagram. It only takes me 30 seconds to see the video and hit share, so I get to save time on content creation for the day, and our insta gets new content from a diverse voice. Its a win-win!

Another example: I like to follow TikTok accounts that are animal related (its feel good stuff!) and so if I see a cute or funny animal video, sometimes I’ll share it on the library’s instagram just to give my students a boost of serotonin and something to make them smile. Again, it takes me no time at all and it exposes my students to something joyful. Its a win-win.

Another example: I follow lots of other librarians. Sometimes they will post an excellent information literacy skill tiktok, and I can simply re-share that on our library’s insta instead of creating my own TikTok on the same topic. I save time, get to learn something myself, and my students get to learn a new info lit tip. Its a win-win!


I hope this post has helped provide some clarity about a few of the many ways librarians can benefit from and leverage the power of tiktok. Next week I will be posting more in depth about #Booktok and the ways its taking the book world by storm.

Thanks for reading!

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