It was once known as the pound sign, but in the Digital Age # has been rebranded as the universal symbol known as the hashtag. Use of the hashtag dates back to 1988 and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) where it was used to categorize items and content into groups. Although just one simple character, the hashtag has proven to be one of the most powerful digital tools out there and is recognized globally. That’s why you should create a hashtag for your school library -- as a way to communicate with your community and extend your reach beyond your school.
Social media offers almost limitless opportunities to connect with people all around the world. But how do we know where to go to find people with similar goals and interests? The hashtag has been adopted by the social networks Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and more. It enables groups of people who use these platforms to find like-minded people. Hashtags have become ubiquitous, and we now see them everywhere -- on screens, in businesses, and even in our schools.
The hashtag and other tools have allowed even the most connected schools to break out of their digital silos and tell their stories to audiences beyond just those who follow them on a specific social media platform. For example, two school hashtags that I follow are #leydenpride (the hashtag for Leyden High School District 212 in Illinois) and #engage109 (the hashtag for Deerfield Public School District 109, also in Illinois). It was because of their hashtags that I learned of the amazing, innovative things taking place in these two districts, and so it was from them that I learned the power of the hashtag as well. Now I follow both hashtags regularly even though I am not part of either school community.
Why Have a Hashtag?
As a thought partner for the Future Ready Librarians initiative, I know firsthand how important leading and learning with social media are for a modern-day librarian. As more and more libraries move into the Digital Age, many are turning to social media as a way to create a positive brand presence and to promote their library programs and resources. In addition to having a presence on social media platforms, there is value in creating a hashtag for your school’s library, including allowing you to expand your library’s reach. School librarians are well positioned to lead the charge of these digital efforts.
Although a hashtag can be almost any word or string of words you want (within the character restrictions of your chosen platform), words are very powerful, and using the right ones is important. Be sure to choose a single hashtag for your library that will help to strengthen your brand presence and community awareness. My school library hashtag is #worldsofmaking. That represents our library brand and how we use our space, and sums up my philosophy of a participatory culture, all in one short phrase. The same can be said for Australian teacher and librarian Jackie Child, who fosters a culture of creation in her library with the hashtag #thetinkeringchild.
A well-crafted hashtag can also help establish and promote a reading culture in your school’s library. For example, #WMSReads, the hashtag for Wilson Middle School in Lethbridge, Canada, is used to celebrate all things related to literacy. A hashtag such as this makes it known to all that reading is important in your library. Using your library hashtag to promote books, to post pictures of students reading, or even to host a book chat will lead to even more engaged and motivated readers.
A hashtag for your school library can be a call to action by serving as an invitation for others in your school community to participate in telling your library’s story. By posting things related to your hashtag on social media, colleagues, school leaders, parents, and students become a part of your library’s story by helping it to take shape and unfold.
Although hashtags were “born digital” as opposed to originating in print, an effective strategy for promoting your library’s hashtag is to post it on bulletin boards and walls in your library and school. This will help drive hashtag use and lead to further community engagement and participation, even beyond the hours of the school day.
The school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers limitless opportunities and resources. These opportunities deserve to be showcased as effectively as possible. Promoting and publicizing your library will ensure that stakeholders see the impact and value of all that your school library has to offer. Hashtags help to further leverage the potential of social media platforms and provide a level of transparency that is sure to benefit any school library.
School librarians in the 21st century have access to more tools than ever before to help promote the many ways they transform teaching and learning within their schools. A school library hashtag can be used across all social media platforms to help you create a community within and around your school library, as well as help you widen your reach beyond the school.