This Milwaukee library’s TikTok videos have become the season’s surprising new must-see
Libraries are a vast treasure trove of information, ideas and inspiration. And yet, they often simultaneously seem like the product of a bygone era. Let’s face it, the convenience of the Internet has made it our go-to source of knowledge, causing us to sacrifice analog magic for expediency.
To be sure, libraries have adapted for the modern age by offering digital resources including basic online access that often provide a lifeline for underserved communities. But still, the general consensus seems to be that libraries are stuffy and archaic. This lack of interest, combined with continued budget cuts, pose a real challenge to physical libraries everywhere.
However, one library is actually harnessing the power of the internet to prove just how cool, and yes, hip, these public spaces can be…one hilarious and viral TikTok at a time.
Looking for a meaningful way to engage a new audience, employees at the majestic Milwaukee Public Library began posting TikTok videos filled with clever pop culture references that also highlighted everything the library has to offer.
Below is one of their most popular ones, featuring a 90-year-old woman proudly sticking her tongue out (and flipping the bird) when told she can’t read manga.
@milwaukeepubliclibrary When you’re around I got arrhythmia (literally). I’m on multiple medications for it. #Girlfriend #HemlockeSprings #OldPeople #Elderly #Manga #Comics #Anime #fyp #FlippingOff #Birdie #MiddleFinger #FlipTheBird ♬ girlfriend – Hemlocke Springs
Because obviously mangas are cool to read at any age.
Another great one—grown-up Matilda, one of children literature’s most beloved bookworms, working her magic with library items.
@milwaukeepubliclibrary #Matilda #RoaldDahl #Trunchbull #MissHoney #MaraWilson #DannyDevito #ThurstonHarris #LittleBittyPrettyOne #BookTok #Librarian #Book #MatildaChallenge #SpecialCollections #Archives #fyp ♬ Little Bitty Pretty One – Thurston Harris
Seriously, kudos to the use of practical effects in this one.
And can you even have a TikTok without at least one Wednesday Addams dance video?
@milwaukeepubliclibrary I cruise though the city and I roam the street looking for this nice librarian. I need a book recommendation. #WednesdayAddams #Wednesday #TheAddamsFamily #JennaOrtega #WednesdayEdit #WednesdayVibes #TheRealPussinBoots#fypシシ#fyp ♬ Goo Goo Muck – The Cramps
With content this fresh and fun, it’s no wonder that Milwaukee Public Library’s TikTok has become an instant hit. Derek Reilly, the library’s data analyst and main camera man, told TODAY that within the first month alone, the page racked up a collective 5 million views. And now, it has close to 9 million followers. The once imposing building has become a welcoming and enticing destination for people, many of whom would travel to Milwaukee simply to visit its library. Other libraries from across the country have even reached out for tips on how to generate their own buzz.
Libraries everywhere, including Milwaukee, struggle with a decline in visitations, physical book checkouts and funding. These videos are a lighthearted way of encouraging much needed support.
@milwaukeepubliclibrary Try one or try them all #AEHolidayCard #LetsGo #IntuitTouchdownDance #LibraryTok #LibraryToks #LibraryTikTok #LibrariesForAll #LibrariesRock #BeautifulLibraries #BlackFriday #BlackFridayDeals #fypシ #fyp ♬ LETS GO – LevitatingOnTheMoonWithDulaPee
Besides nailing TV and movie nods, Milwaukee Public Library’s TikTok page really captures the type of experience visitors are in for the moment they step through those doors—everything from interactions with a lively, vibrant staff to the feeling of that first library card in the palm of your hand, and all of the possibilities that come with it.
These are all things that the internet, even with its many attributes, simply cannot provide. That’s why these spaces need to live on. Until we really do become a society of cyborgs, human beings will crave visceral experiences. We’ll crave fun. Despite what you might initially think, libraries offer this and so much more. And what’s more, they do it for free.
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