Instagram for local studies in public libraries

When the James B Hunt Jr Library opened, the library encouraged students and others who were visiting the library to share their photographs on Instagram using the hashtag #myhuntlibrary.  They provided a way to curate  images on Instagram, and archive some of the images (you can read a description here).  Have a look at the NCSU social media archives kit, which includes  their Lentil documentation.

This collecting of images from Instagram seemed an idea to consider for local studies collections.  It has taken a while to be able to test this method, but now  there are two examples. The collecting works by hashtags, and you select which images are added to the feed. You can change the hashtags which are collected to respond to local events.  

 Sutherland Library was approached to help test the methodology.

 This test provided more detailed information about what was really required to make this work. Have a look at the images Sutherland Library  is collecting.

Screen shot of Sutherland Libraries collecting social media

Screen shot of Sutherland Libraries collecting social media

A second round of tests, with two libraries, was needed to resolve some issues which emerged as part of the first pilot program.

A call for expressions of interest was put on on email as we were looking for two libraries to test this. The aim of this test is to have a straightforward methodology for other public libraries to be able to use.

To participate in this trial, the following points were required:

  • Your council or library has an Instagram account
  • Your library staff can suggest some hashtags of relevance to the community that they would be interested in collecting - ones in current use, not for a future event
  • You have the ability to provide library/council header in appropriate format for online use
  • You have a willingness to set up external accounts, their setup and login details provided (Heroku, AWS S3, and Postmark)
  • You have a willingness to monitor and collect for at least six months – note this will require ongoing staff time of 2 – 4 hours a month.
  • There is a dedicated domain or subdomain for the web page to appear on (e.g. — this could also be a subdomain of your existing library website, or some other shared domain.

There were four expressions of interest, however, only two complied with all the requirements. 

Richmond Upper Clarence Library is one of the two libraries involved in this second phase.  Have a look at the images they are collecting.

screen shot of social media collecting from Richmond Upper Clarence Regional Library

screen shot of social media collecting from Richmond Upper Clarence Regional Library

This method provides one archive of the images. For digital preservation, additional storage will be needed and this is being investigated.

The State Library of NSW has paid for these pilot programs as a way to gauge work load and cost for public libraries.  Future project will need to be paid for, and maintained by individual councils. If anyone is interested in exploring this further, please contact Ellen Forsyth.