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How 'LibraryTok' is helping libraries write their next chapter

LibraryTok is a booming, book-loving corner of the internet ... completely free of fines.
/ Source: TODAY

Say the word "library," and you may envision a stuffy spot with librarians casting a “shhh!” toward anyone talking a decibel too loud for their liking.

But LibraryTok is showing TikTok users that this perception is nothing more than an antiquated misconception. 

“We are trying to really get the point known that we’re libraries that have evolved into the 21st century,” Paul Wellington, social media specialist for the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library, tells  

And LibraryTok has helped them do just that. This niche corner of TikTok has librarians leveraging the power of social media and pop culture trends to showcase new reads and the amenities their libraries have to offer. 

Collectively, the hashtags #librarytok, #librarytiktok and #librariansoftiktok have amassed nearly 800 million views on the social media platform.

Read on to see how modern day book mavens are helping both libraries write their next chapter, one amusing look behind the shelves at a time. 

A girl proudly shows off her library card on the Milwaukee Public Library TikTok.
A girl proudly shows off her library card on the Milwaukee Public Library TikTok. @milwaukeepubliclibrary via TikTok

LibraryTok may be helping usher in more patrons

The pandemic “had a pretty profound effect” on people accessing libraries nationally, Neil Albrecht, interim director of community relations and engagement at the Milwaukee Public Library, tells 

And even as restrictions eased, patrons at the Wisconsin library were not reemerging at the rate library officials were hoping for, Albercht says.

Library leaders had also noticed a slump with volunteer opportunities and library services alike, Fawn Siemsen-Fuchs, library volunteer coordinator, tells 

“We were concerned about the number of people visiting the library and really hoping to up those numbers,” Siemsen-Fuchs explains. 

In an effort to boost in-person engagement, staffers turned to virtual methods — specifically, TikTok.

In June 2022, Siemsen-Fuchs, along with two other employees — library data analyst Derek Reilly and library accountant Evan Szymkowski — launched the Milwaukee Public Library TikTok account, @milwaukeepubliclibrary

The inaugural post shows a librarian meticulously setting up a display table with the text displayed over the video reading “librarians when you visit their displays” to the tune of “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

The camera pans to a patron walking in and grabbing a book off the table, with the librarian intently watching behind a life size cutout of actor LeVar Burton wearing a “Reading Rainbow” tee. The humorous interaction racked up over 16 thousand views.  

Today, the playful account — replete with memes about getting lost in a book, defying reading stereotypes, the library's inner workings and the impact of being a library patron — has nearly 100 thousand followers, 90 thousand followers and 3 million likes.

Similarly, the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library TikTok account, @cincylibrary, has garnered over 30 thousand followers.

TikTok, they think, has lent them a helping hand inside the walls of the library. 

“Staff will reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, someone came in and brought up our TikTok,” Libby Scott, communications manager at the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library, tells 

While the libraries hope to attract people of all ages with their videos, an added bonus may be that the accounts are driving the younger demographic through the doors.

The Milwaukee Public Library see TikTok “as a way to kind of connect to a younger audience that maybe we hadn’t tapped into before,” Siemsen-Fuchs explains.

With videos like a woman dressed up like Wednesday Addams asking for a librarian’s help while spoofing actor Jenna Ortega’s viral dance, they are finding a way to reach people (and maybe turn Netflix viewers into readers in the process).

As for the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library, Wellington says the most common age of followers of their account is 34 years old. “We definitely are reaching a younger audience,” he notes. 

Fostering a sense of community within the shelves 

It takes a team effort for the Milwaukee Public Library staff to keep up with posting informative, funny videos four times a week, Siemsen-Fuchs says.

And the team effort has created a team in the process.

Siemsen-Fuchs says the TikTok account fosters a sense of community among library staff, since almost everyone in the videos are employee volunteers.

“You’ll see people who work in other departments that are like completely across the building and they’re working other hours than you, but she may be acting alongside them in a short form video,” she says. “Then when you see them in the elevator, it’s a conversation starter.” 

Szymkowski says the TikTok has been a way to connect people and “bring joy to a lot of people’s days, which is a beautiful thing.” 

Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library hilariously showed how they gather hold requests on their TikTok.
Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library hilariously showed how they gather hold requests on their TikTok. @cincylibrary via TikTok

The group has also uncovered fellow employees’ hidden talents. “I saw one of our custodians dancing in a recent video, I was pretty impressed with that,” Albrecht laughs. 

The sense of community extends to the viewers. For Wellington, seeing positivity in the comment section of the videos is the best part. “Hopefully that leads to them being more involved in their local library,” he says.  

The influence of LibraryTok can be felt near and far

On a local level, Albrecht says, the TikTok videos are making an impact by “being a part of the library’s overall community conversation strategy."

“Milwaukee is a city very challenged by racial and economic disparities and we see the library as an institution with the potential to contribute toward the city moving past that,” Albrecht says regarding the Milwaukee Public Library. “Our messaging and making sure that we reach more people than our traditional patrons is really important to that movement.” 

But the reach of these accounts extends even further than the city limits. The message is resonating on a national scale. 

The Milwaukee Public Library and the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library say about half of their TikTok followers are based locally. 

Albrecht says he’s “really proud” that the Milwaukee Public Library TikTok account has touched so many users and expanded their appreciation of libraries.

“There is a national attention to the relevance of libraries in every community,” he says. “You see libraries being shut down because of budget constraints or book band related issues. It’s really an important time for libraries to be contributing to discussions about their role.”