How To Be A TokStar Librarian
TikTok; one of, if not the, most popular apps worldwide. Using this cultural phenomenon to advocate for and promote your library is not a new idea, in fact we featured a post about the basics of the platform nearly 2 years ago. This time, however, we will take it a step further, and dive into the TikTok journey of Amanda Hunt, aka TheNextGenLibrarian, and how she uses the platform to the benefit of her students and library.
In order for me to fully share my TikTok journey with all of you, you will need to put yourself in the mindset of 2019. I know–pre-pandemic, pre-Zoom meetings, pre-masks and pre-quarantine, pre-everything it seems like. But it’s important to remember this time because it was December 2019 when my students started spending every waking second talking about or performing what would become The Renegade Dance phenomenon. They also couldn’t stop raving about an app called TikTok. I hadn’t heard much about it at this point, but I knew many students were spending time on this app and thus, wanted to discuss what they were seeing with me. Before TikTok, Vine had been all the rage for short and funny videos, but it wasn’t until Charli D’Amelio blew up performing Jalaiah Harmon’s Renegade dance choreography that it was filtered out into the masses of the middle school in central Texas that I work at as the librarian. Over the holiday break I decided to learn this dance, as to embarrass my students with my cringe content, but also to connect with them since almost every student was performing this dance in the hallways and classrooms. In doing so, I began my love affair with the app called TikTok.
That holiday break I spent hours a day on this app, becoming consumed by funny content, dancers, teacher and librarian lesson ideas, technology tips, recipes and so much more. Needless to say, I was obsessed. In February our school had a pep rally and since TikTok dances were still all the rage, I was asked to compete with the girls vs. guys TikTok dance battle since most of the students by now were following me on this app. My initial plan was to connect with the students where they are. If students are spending all their time on an app–that’s where I want to place myself to keep the library and books a part of the conversation. Therefore, students had seen my dances and silly voice overs that I’d done in connection with the library and librarian content. Saying yes was a no brainer. Performing in front of our school doing TikTok dances is right up my alley because it lets me connect with students, show my silly side and let them know I’m approachable in the library since I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like to. The pep rally was a hit! (The girls won, of course).
Then March 2020 hit and along with it, COVID-19.
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Suddenly everyone knew about TikTok and it was everywhere. People in lockdown found the app and were using it as an escape, but that also meant more parents were seeing what this app was and the negatives it had, as any social media app does if not monitored correctly. Celebrities were taking to the app in droves, hoping to grow their following and students were becoming even more submersed in the app as well. I continued to use this time to put out library/librarian/bookish content while in lockdown. This allowed me to continue that connection with students when we couldn’t be together in person, but also to keep the library on their minds and create a whole new connection with students I hadn’t even met yet. When we returned in person in August 2020, most of the incoming 6th graders knew who I was because of TikTok. This created an instant relationship between myself and them before they even set foot inside my library. I was also able to use the app to show them how to use social media safely and responsibly with digital citizenship lessons.
Even though TikTok has been such a huge positive for me with my students, it’s also been an enormous benefit as a librarian. Connecting with other educators, authors, book reviewers, publishers, librarians, etc. through TikTok has created professional development that I just can’t get anywhere else. I’ve created a whole new Professional Learning Network (PLN) through TikTok alone. We call ourselves the #tokstarlibrarians and use the hashtag when we post. At our last state librarian conference, I was recognized every few feet from my TikTok account.
TikTok has brought a lot of positivity into my life during what was a dark time for us as a people. I’m able to advocate for my profession, for books, for readers and for human beings through this app and I couldn’t ask for a better platform to do it on. The fight against censorship has been a big one in Texas and using my platform on this app has helped spread the word in the fight for intellectual freedom, freedom of speech and the FReadom to read. If you’re hesitant to try TikTok, do what I did: take 5 minutes out of your day and log on. Be a lurker! I promise you will start to find your people on this app. I’m including a presentation I did with fellow TokStarLibrarians at the Texas Librarian Conference last year here, so you can get an idea of how to use TikTok as a librarian, but also who you can follow on the app to get started. On my YouTube channel, you will also find a how-to guide I did several months ago on how to use the app itself. Of course, things change with updates, but a lot of it is still applicable.
I love connecting with fellow librarians, educators, authors, publishers, etc. so if you ever want to do a TikTok together, collaborate on social media, present, or grow your PLN, I’m ready for a dance collab anytime!
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