Why Your Academic Library Should Be on TikTok

A Q&A with Cedar Crest College makes the case.

Despite endless controversies, TikTok has captured the attention of more than 100 million active monthly users in the US. This has led many organizations to search for a niche for themselves in this vast ecosystem, which, unlike other social media platforms, privileges fun, snappy, and meme-driven short video content. The centrality of video hasn’t deterred the creation of a vibrant literature community on the app, known among users as #BookTok. Many credit #BookTok for having a profound effect on encouraging young people to read and discover new books. Public libraries have seized on these new and eager readers to advertise their offerings, but academic libraries, often sparse of the pop fiction titles that gain the most traction in this community, have been more hesitant to enter this space.

However, Cressman Library at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, shows that academic libraries can thrive on TikTok. With humor and verve, the Cressman Library seeks to capture more than the attention of its viewers: it fosters both education and community within the library. Below is a short Q&A with Nanette DeRemer from the Cressman Library. Nanette pulls back the curtains on the library’s TikTok presence and offers practical advice for other academic libraries interested in getting in on the fun.

Libraries are no strangers to social media, but many organizations, despite the sheer number of people on it, have been hesitant about using TikTok. What sparked your library’s decision to join the platform? What did you hope to get out of it? 

During the beginning of the pandemic, we had our longtime director retire. On campus we were always viewed as a typical institutional academic library—helpful, but not relevant. Our new director came in and had a vision that the library would be the “heart of campus,” thus changing our focus to meeting students where they are. It was during this time that we started our library’s Instagram account. This was staff-driven and started as purely informational. It became a good way to get students to our website for resources and assistance while they learned from home. 

When we were finally back on campus, we wanted to get the student workers more involved with the library’s social media and content creation. The students kept asking us to start a TikTok since that’s where they are active, and after about a year of watching what other libraries were doing, we finally said YES! 

The staff sees TikTok as a way to increase student engagement, and the students enjoy it because they get to see their friends being silly while still getting library information. 


Celebrating Womens History Month at Cressman Library come join us. #cressmanlibrary #library #librarytiktok #collegelibrary

♬ original sound – edits

How do you run your account? Is one person in charge of it, or is it a team effort? What sort of content do you use TikTok to share, and how do you come up with it? Do you need any specialized skills or equipment to get started? 

I am currently the senior staff member responsible for our social media, including TikTok, and have a small team of student workers that help with planning and content creation. Other library staff members also contribute ideas of what to feature. We have a calendar that we use to plan the social media content for the month and figure out what events to feature, who is going to create the content, and on what platform. 

On TikTok, the popular or viral posts change so quickly we need to plan it weekly; it is not something you can plan a month in advance. The students find trends they like, and then we discuss how or if these trends tie into our library offerings, resources, or community and go from there. Each TikTok is brainstormed and planned on a whiteboard. Next, we film it using a tablet or phone, and then sometimes we use editing software, like CapCut

While I am not a marketing person, a lot of content creation is marketing, and we need to think about what we should or shouldn’t feature, what will be popular, and who the audience is. This has gotten much easier over time because the students have learned the process and present their ideas well. I think that one of the most important things that I learned from venturing into TikTok is not to take everything we do so seriously. Humor has power, and if you can make your audience laugh, they will listen to the other things you have to say. 

BookTok is a well-known algorithmic community within TikTok and seemingly has had a lot of success getting young people into reading. Some public libraries have edged into this space by showcasing their own fictional offerings (and memes). But what can academic libraries contribute to this space, or where do they fit into BookTok or the larger TikTok ecosystem? 

We have tried to bridge the gap between “public library” and “academic library” with our offerings so the students can get both what they need academically and also what they want for fun. Fiction is one of the most asked about genres from our students, and we do have a rather large fiction collection for a small college. We have not delved completely into BookTok yet but do use the tag to share what we are offering.  We currently use it primarily for book recommendations that the students come up with based on different trending topics.  Looking to the future, we hope for our library-run book clubs to be featured on and utilize BookTok. 

Academic libraries can and should be making themselves accessible to their student population, and currently the trend is on TikTok. We don’t post all our content on the platform, but use it as a supplement to email, Instagram, and Facebook. We know that our undergraduate population enjoys it and likes seeing themselves featured. I think that this will drive student engagement and help students feel at ease taking their first steps into our library or asking their first reference questions.


We are so grateful for our Cressman Library Student Assistants! They help the library run and are so much fun! Thanks for being some of the best fish in the sea! 🎣#library #librariansoftiktok #librariesoftiktok #cedarcrestcollege #librarian #collegelibrary #booktok #cressmanlibrary #fyp #ifiwereafish

♬ if i were a fish (feat. Olivia Barton) – corook

What are the advantages and disadvantages to using TikTok to promote the library over other social media platforms? 

One of the biggest advantages is that it is FUN! It has challenged us to find new and creative ways to promote the library and library services to the student body. It has also engaged the students in critical thinking about what their peers would like to see and trying to predict what they will react well to. We don’t find quite as much engagement with our Facebook or our Instagram. In fact, our most popular Instagram posts are our TikToks that we have shared as Reels. 

Other than the obvious disadvantage of the unknown with TikTok’s future, I think that our alumni are not seeing what we are doing on the platform and engaging with it unless they are very recent alum. We find that our alumni prefer more traditional posts on Facebook and sometimes Instagram. Knowing your audience is key to making TikTok work for you. Another disadvantage is how fast the trends change; it impedes ability to plan.  

For libraries interested in starting a TikTok, what are some do’s and don’ts you’d give them? 

DO research (we are librarians, right?). Before we even created an account for the library, I had researched a lot of libraries on the platform and what they were doing. I needed to know that we had the bandwidth and creativity to at least be decent at what we were going to try to do. 

DON’T panic when there are thousands of things trending. Just pick one and run with it. 

DO trust your students to know what will work with their peers.

DON’T say that you won’t appear in a TikTok. I said that I would manage it and help, but I would not appear. That lasted a few months, and I did make a cameo. I’m no longer afraid to let it happen!

DO make lists of your services/events that you would like to promote. This made it much easier to get these things to “fit” with a trend.

DON’T be afraid to laugh through the process. There were so many hilarious outtakes while planning and filming. We really had a great time making it all come together!

What are your favorite accounts to follow? 

We follow a combination of public and academic libraries, publishers, independent book reviewers, museums, other institutions, our students, our other college accounts, etc. 

The very first account that I started watching when considering TikTok for our library was Sewickley Public Library (@sewickleypubliclibrary) in Pittsburgh, PA. My friend from grad school, Emily Fear, is the teen services librarian there and makes just amazing TikToks that are informative, creative, and hilarious. It’s the account we look to when we need inspiration. 

We also follow our local consortium of colleges (LVAIC) on their social media and try to interact with each other. Those college  libraries are DeSales University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian University, and Muhlenberg College

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