What is TikTok?  

TikTok is a social media app used to share videos up to three minutes long. The app was around long before the COVID-19 quarantine, but its popularity soared in 2020 as so many of us were stuck at home. TikTok's target users are mainly in their teens and early twenties, but it has now gained enthusiasts of all ages. 

TikTok's appeal lies in brevity and scope. Users can view lots of videos in a shorter amount of time. There is no limit to the topics its videos address, from ADHD to zoology — which means there is truly something for everyone to enjoy. As in other platforms, hashtags help users quickly find videos on their favorite interests and communities based on them. TikTok also uses an algorithm to create a "For You" page that auto-selects and displays videos based on your likes. TikTok distinguishes itself in the use of sounds, whether music clips or clips from shows, that often drive trends. TikTok dance videos and comedy set to sounds are famous among fans. You can even search for a particular sound and see videos using it.  

What is BookTok?  

Within the countless niches of TikTok exists the BookTok community. Creators have used #BookTok to create a world of book recommendations, book talks, and other book-related videos for bibliophile viewers. Think of it as a lovely nook for people who love to talk books, reading, and book fandom.  

Many of the users on BookTok are teens, which shows how engaged teen readers are — and how much YA books are beloved by people of all ages. BookTok even managed to put certain titles, like We Were Liars and They Both Die at the End, back on the bestseller list. Keeping up with trending titles on BookTok is an excellent way to know what to feature in your library or social media to attract readers of all ages. 

How do libraries use TikTok?  

TikTok offers libraries fun ways to reach out to their community and beyond. Libraries can connect with viewers in a more casual, engaging way by creating different kinds of TikTok shorts, for example:  

  • Showcasing what a day in the life of a librarian looks like  
  • Giving tours of their libraries  
  • Offering any behind-the-scenes peek into library services 

These TikToks offer viewers a better idea of everything that goes into librarianship and how essential libraries are to their communities, even if the audience isn't just the physical community. Perhaps best of all, it shows off the creativity and hard work of library staff.  

Here are some great examples of what libraries have done using TikTok:  

This example from @maricopalibrary puts a fun spin on what it's like to think you're alone in the library — and to learn otherwise. The comments are filled with people sharing similar experiences in libraries and other places, or just saying they're glad they've found #LibraryTikTok. It has over 200,000 views!

Kali Dallmier created this fantastic example of readers' advisory via TikTok for @westregionallibrary. There's even more RA in the comments in response to questions from viewers, which is a wonderful way to showcase the RA skills the library has to offer to a wide audience. It has over 400,000 views! 

Maricopa's is more day in the life, while West Georgia Regional is readers' advisory. Still, both use popular sounds and fun ideas to successfully reach a big audience and get lots of interaction.  

Why should you try TikTok?  

One of the most significant challenges librarians face is reaching their users who may not come into the library. Using social media, including TikTok, is one way to reach out to these users. Teens can be a particularly challenging audience, and meeting them where they are is a terrific way to connect. While there are all ages on TikTok, many users are in their teens and twenties — both are age groups that can be a struggle to reach. Creating an account can give them a way to find you or remind them how many options there are for them at their local library. 

If you decide to create a TikTok account for your library, here are some quick tips:  

  • Have fun: TikTok is all about funny, entertaining videos. Even if it's informative, it can be personal and conversational, or creative. Don't be afraid of looking silly, and don't be too professional or rely on too much library jargon. Imagine you're having a real-life conversation.   
  • Get familiar with the landscape: Before you dive in, get on the app and see what is being created and shared. Not only is this fun, but it also helps you know what is succeeding on the app.  
  • Use sounds: You can look up top sounds and see what can get you more visibility. But make sure you listen to the sound all the way through. You don't want to be surprised by offensive lyrics or not something you want representing the library.   
  • Add links to your website or other social media accounts in your bio: You can use something like Linktr.ee to have them all readily there with one click.   
  • Never forget your hashtags: Popular hashtags you can use for your videos include #booktok (13.9 billion views), #library (544.3 million views), #librarians (70.3 million views), #librariansoftiktok (63.9 million views), and #librarytiktok (45.2 million views). 

TikTok may seem overwhelming at first, but it's just one more social media option to promote your library and all the collections, programs, services, and amazing staff available to help readers. 


Yaika Sabat is a Senior Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList. She is currently reading Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya.