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Librarians Are Meeting Younger Readers Where They Are: TikTok

The New York Times – “The pandemic hurt children’s reading skills. Librarians are doing what it takes to connect them with books — including dance routines. The pandemic wiped out decades of progress in children’s reading skills. So what’s a librarian hoping to engage children and teenagers with books and reading to do? “Meet them where they are,” said Sara Day, a teen services librarian at the Woodland Public Library in Woodland, Calif. And that, she said, is on TikTok. A growing number of librarians are joining her there. Last month, Day and her colleague, Sara Vickers, a children’s librarian, led dozens of their colleagues in a short choreography set to Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” as part of a session called “TikTok O’ Clock!” at the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2022 symposium in Baltimore. “Looking cool was a big challenge at the beginning,” Vickers, 34, told the crowd. That was until her colleagues had a change in mind-set. “Lean into the cringe,” Day, 29, advised. Teens are overwhelmed, she said. “Put a smile on their face.” Asked if their libraries were on TikTok, about half of the room raised their hands. The message to teens, Day said, is: “Come in, there’s a space for you.” On TikTok, librarians don costumes, dance to viral songs, show off new books and bond with their co-workers. And as they do so, they draw in visitors and drum up interest in reading: Margo Moore, 28, a teen services librarian who traveled to the symposium from Lawrence, Kan., said that interest in books featured in popular TikTok videos often spikes in the days and weeks that follow.

Library TikTok is related to, but distinct from, BookTok, a corner of the platform where readers post about their favorite books and which has become a force in book sales. On library TikTok, there is chatter about books, but librarians also post about resources and events, showcasing libraries as welcoming places for diverse communities. There is no official tally of library and librarian TikTok accounts, but Katie Elson Anderson, a reference librarian at Rutgers University-Camden, has compiled a list of 85 accounts — which she says is likely an undercount…”

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