How media center workers at Palatine High are using TikTok to promote reading
Leaping over a desk. Falling with a dozen hardcover books in your arms. Hanging off a moving book cart.
"There is nothing we won't try" goes a line in the song that two Palatine High School media center staff members used in their latest TikTok video -- and that pretty much sums it up.
Meredith Quick and Sarina Flores are the creators the media center TikTok account, @mediacenterphs, which they launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The account's tagline is "Just a bunch of librarians looking to spread the love of reading."
"Both me and Sarina are very outgoing people, and we miss the kids," Quick said. "It was like, 'How do we get to the kids?' And the kids are on their iPhone or their iPad. We wanted to reach out to them."
Quick is a library assistant, and Flores is a media center assistant. The two have posted 108 lighthearted videos via the social networking app to promote books and reading, as well as things like Black History Month, Women's History Month and the "Top 16" books picked by high school librarians and staff members.
They get on average 200 to 300 views, with some garnering more than 1,000. The most popular has about 5,500 views.
"I did it in five minutes and I don't understand why (it was so popular)," Quick said, speculating it might have been due a particularly popular song she used in the video.
Flores came up with the idea of launching a TikTok channel for the media center. She asked her co-workers to record snippets at home, which she used to create the first video in April 2020.
"My kids use TikTok, and I use it too," she said. "Editing is the hardest part."
Over the summer, she and Quick -- who eventually also learned to edit -- brainstormed ideas for more videos. Their effort launched in earnest in August, when staff members returned to the building.
The two women use the media center's Twitter and Instagram accounts to share their TikToks and tag book authors. That has led to things like "Fireborne" author Rosaria Munda's Zoom book talk for the media center and social media interactions with authors Fred Aceves and April Henry, among others.
Quick, who has dyslexia, is passionate about encouraging students who grapple with the same condition. Two of her TikTok videos focus on that, she said. "When kids tell me they don't like to read, I just tell them, 'You haven't read the right book.'"
Also, "all reading counts," she said, including audiobooks and forms like graphic novels and verse.
The media center has about 17,000 books, plus puzzles, games and a reading and studying area. Students also have access to hundreds of e-books. "We get a lot of traffic coming in here," Flores said.
But nothing's been the same during the pandemic, which is why the TikTok videos have been a great way to stay connected with students, they said.
Flores and Quick do a lot of "research" by watching other TikTok videos and tag their videos with "BookTok," a subset for book lovers. What they don't do is things like adding popular, but unrelated, tags to attract more viewers, they said.
"Our intent is not to go viral. Our intent is to make connections with our students," Quick said. "We are here for them, we miss them and we are going to be here for them when this is all over."