Use of Our Collections in Pinterest

My previous posted concerned use of Pinterest by Libraries. My department works with digital collections, so even if we don’t make boards, our content in Iowa Digital Library may be getting pinned. Even if we choose not to make boards of our own, it is important that we pay attention to Pinterest to see how well our digital collections work with it, learn what is getting pinned and see how our collections are being used. We can choose to engage with people on Pinterest as well.

Pinterest Source Search

It is very easy to see what has been pinned from a domain. Simply add the domain after http://www.pinter I don’t know how far back (in time or numbers) this will go. I scrolled to the bottom of and one of the bottom pins was from a year ago. This means it is not a complete listing of everything in our collection that has been pinned. I think it must be a maximum number because items that were pinned more than a year ago appear at the bottom of other searches.

I found it interesting to check these domains as well:

You can see the types of things that are pinned and also to which boards items are pinned. For example, a blog post for Mother’s Day was posted to a fashion board. A few of our domains (LibGuides and our repository) have very few pins, as I would have expected.

For the most part, I am not sure what this tells us other than a general overview of how people engage with our content on Pinterest. Browsing through the pins might be a way to find boards we would want to follow. It also may point out additional issues, such as some of the older pins to our website go to places that no longer exist due to a website redesign. If there was a way to analyze this information it might be interesting, but as it is these searches are of minor interest.

Items in our bookbinding models digital collection are frequently pinned, but in this case use originates in our digital collection, not from a Pinterest board we (or Special Collections) have made.

When we began dabbling with Pinterest, we started a board of items pinned by users, but we did not keep up with this, probably because we saw little value in the collection.

Pinning from Our Digital Collections

Another issue is how easily can our digital collections be pinned? Is the image quality good? Does it come with appropriate metadata? When testing this, we should try to use our system like someone who frequently uses Pinterest, which means taking some time to use it yourself.

I believe there are four basic ways to interact with Pinterest.

Click a standard Pin it icon on a site

This works really easily and I think this is how most people add items to boards. Not having an obvious Pin it button probably reduces the amount that people will pin our content.

While digital collections lack as obvious a pin it (or tweet or post to Facebook) icon as on commercial sites, we do have a share button in CONTENTdm (CDM). You need to hover over “share” and then initially click either “share” or “more” to find the Pinterest option (clearly it is more important to interact with Myspace than with Pinterest). After you use it, Pinterest is moved to the top of the list. Note that it is currently not working for me in Chrome but does work in Firefox.



When you click it there are multiple image options. The preferred image is small and of may be of poor quality, but it is complete. There often are other images that are portions of the image. I have had the small, preferred image be of too low a resolution to be pinned. In my test just now, it did work and the image was complete.


The larger resolution image is actually incomplete, being just the same as if you right clicked and saved the image. The other option was a peculiar strip of the image.


These images did not include the banding added on the fly by the system. They all included acceptable metadata. It would be nice if a URL was included but it is not. Clicking on the image takes you to our digital collections. Compound objects work just as well as a single object. Other than the cropped image, this works acceptably.

Use a browser plugin

This works much like the Pin it button except you have an option of the various pictures on a page to Pin. This is a good option for sites that don’t have a Pin it icon. Using the Chrome plugin, my results from Amazon are as good with this as with the Pin it icon. In CDM, I am offered a quirky set of images. The results will vary depending on how much of the image displays. If will also may “helpfully” cut up an image.

Image in digital collectionpinterest-browser-1

Suggestions of what to pin


Because the share option is not as obvious as a Pin It button on another site, people who are regular users of Pinterest may use such a plugin and may be a bit frustrated when they cannot get the complete image.

Add pin from the web (URL)

Using the URL in the browser address bar, this brought in a small (but complete image, lacking all metadata, but it does link to our collection. The reference URL did not pull anything in. Using the URL in the browser for a compound object only offers the option of the cover. The reference URL again did not work. This is a poor option for CDM.

Upload an item (Add a pin, your computer)

Uploading is quite possible to do with our digital collections by downloading an item (click download option and choose the size that you want). This will not include a link to our collection, although you can add a source link to our collection (but it is not included in the source search discussed above). It will not pull in metadata. Probably most regular pinners will not do this because it takes more time. It is the sort of thing two librarians unused to Pinterest are apt to do when making a board for homecoming. One good feature in CONTENTdm is that the banding is applied to the downloaded image (but not to an image that you right click and save). It looks like this may be the most reliable way to pin a complete image with good resolution, especially from a compound object.

Given the varied results of pinning items from our digital collections, I am glad to see that people are pinning items. I believe we would have more pins if it worked in a more standard fashion.

Use of Digital Collections Coming from Pinterest

Now the question is how many people move from Pinterest to our digital collections, perhaps to explore the collections further or look at an image in higher resolution. My assumption is that pictures that can be seen adequately in Pinterest will probably not generate traffic to our site, unless the individual believes there will be items of sufficient interest to warrant looking around another site. While adorable, this kitten can be seen perfectly well in Pinterest and doesn’t require going to our collection for an improved view.

Fortunately, Google Analytics provides information on people coming to our collections from Pinterest. Go to Acquisition – Social – Network referrals. You will probably want to change the time period to be quite long to look at overall trends (I think Pinterest first appears in our data in September 2011).

On 7-8 May we had a spike in usage of our transcription site 14,618 sessions, with 9,056 sessions from the social category (57% of the total use from reddit). Due to this spike, I looked at the numbers on either side of this date.

From 1 September 2011–6 May 2013 our digital collections had 396,641 sessions, with 9,581 sessions (2.4%) via social referral. Within the social media category, Pinterest was the 5th most used with 624 sessions, 6.5% of social sessions, but 7.4% of page views. People spent slightly longer than average with slightly more page views in our digital collection when coming from Pinterest than from other social media.


Social media referrals were greater from 9 May 2013-2 November 2014. There were 270,741 total sessions, with 13,606 sessions (5.0%) via social referral. Within the social media category, Pinterest was the 4th most used with 1,412 sessions, 10.38% of social sessions. In this time period, Pinterest’s proportion of page views dropped below the number of sessions because Tumblr became a very strong social referral for us, engaging people in looking further around our collections.


There are 409 different items in IDL that were pinned (the same item may have been pinned multiple times) and resulted in people going to our digital collections. There were a total of 2079 sessions originating in Pinterest, with 6811 page views (average of 3.28 pages/session). Pins from our book binding model far and away sent the most use to Pinterest (791 sessions), followed distantly by our Mildred Wirt Benson collection (184 sessions). The bookbinding model collection also had the highest number of total page views in sessions originating in Pinterest. However, the average number of page views is far below some of out other collections. In the case of the Historic Iowa Children’s Diaries, with 17 page views per session, this makes sense because people may want to read or at least look at multiple pages of the whole diary. Our Szathmary Recipe Pamphlets and Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes collections also have slightly higher than typical pageviews when compared with other sessions originating in Pinterest.


Collection Sum of Sessions Sum of Pageviews Pageviews/ session
Total/Average 2079 6811 3.28
binding 791 1846 2.33
mwb 184 497 2.70
szathmary 89 354 3.98
tc 88 147 1.67
cartalog 85 111 1.31
ictcs 84 426 5.07
uima 78 231 2.96
gpc 73 87 1.19
cwd 71 548 7.72

We really like it when the items link back to our digital collections. Unfortunately, there are some broken links due I think to changes in CONTENTdm. For example,

no longer links to our collection.

Overall, our collection usage originating in Pinterest is small compared to the use overall. However, it is interesting to see which collections are of most interest on this social media platform.


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