Behind the ‘Gram, Ivy the ‘Lab-rarian’ and Dartmouth’s Academic Juggernauts

The Dartmouth Library’s witty Instagram posts aim to connect “academic juggernauts” to one of campus’ most frequented spaces.

by Hannah Shariff | 10/6/21 2:20am

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by Beam Lertbunnaphongs / The Dartmouth

At first glance, the Dartmouth Library Instagram account could be mistaken for an unofficial,  student-run page. Scrolling through the posts, photos of ‘Lab-rarian’ Ivy — the unofficial mascot of the library — complement helpful infographics about library resources and images of students hard at work, captioned with peculiar family-friendly derivations of the popularly used student phrase “academic weapons.” Favorite derivations include academic “harmonizing yodelers” and “sole survivors of lost whaling ships.” 

The content isn’t only digital; offline social media projects — such as the recent sticker scavenger hunt — have helped students discover new areas of a long-cherished space on campus. It seems that post-pandemic, @dartmouthlibrary is seeking to revitalize what Baker-Berry means to Dartmouth, both online and in person — and the team behind the account seems to be having some fun while doing it. 

Library communications manager Tom Remp noted that the goal of the posts is to combine humor with helpful information. Beginning his position three months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Remp spearheaded the transformation of @dartmouthlibrary. Before taking on the role of communications manager for the library, Remp was the social media manager for the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont. 

“[My former position] taught me how to put in messaging that I really believe in and the ability to get important things across without taking it too seriously,” Remp said. 

However, his role at Dartmouth began with an unexpected stumbling block — COVID-19 — put a halt to normal operations, which sped up the onboarding process for his position. Despite these roadblocks, Remp worked alongside library leadership to create messaging that could help students in quarantine. 

“In the end, it came down to supporting students — both academically, which for the library is sort of an obvious one, and then also during COVID emotionally and with some humor,” Remp said. 

Associate librarian for digital strategies Daniel Chamberlain added that because students couldn’t physically visit the library during the pandemic, library leadership focused on how to use social media to “create connections and build community.” 

This has included projects such as the Dartmouth Alumni Photo Challenge, which involved reaching out to alumni and having them share pictures of their time at Dartmouth. Another popular endeavor was the sticker competition, where Dartmouth students were asked to design a sticker surrounding the prompt, “What does Dartmouth Library mean to you?” Stickers — designed by the two competition winners, digital project specialist Betty Kim ’20 and student worker Ivana Devic ’22 — were sent to students in their homes around the world. 

Out of the competition came the opportunity to collaborate with Portland-based artist and muralist Davey Barnwell ’13, who designed 25 stickers representing some of the Dartmouth Library’s most iconic spaces. 

The 25 designs are part of the Dartmouth sticker scavenger hunt, where students receive a jigsaw puzzle if they find all 25 stickers. One winner, Kevin Moran ’25, said he did not even know about the incentive, but decided to participate in the challenge because “It just seemed like something cool and interesting to do.” 

“Through the stickers, I was able to explore the library,” Moran said. “I didn’t know how to access the Stacks until the scavenger hunt. I didn’t even know where the Stacks were — I thought the Stacks were just the regular floors, but I didn’t know there was a whole different place.” 

Another winner, Matt Jachim-Gallagher ’25, also felt the scavenger hunt was an entertaining way to explore the library. 

“It’s a great incentive to get people to explore the library,” Jachim-Gallagher said. “There was a sticker at Tuck, and I would have never known that there was a library in Tuck unless I was looking for that sticker. It’s just a really good way to push people to find new resources and go visit different places in the library.” 

Remp and the library staff have taken note of the foot traffic, pointing out that places in the library that were once rarely visited have now been traversed in order to discover stickers. 

“I’ll go back to a space in two days and all of the stickers are gone,” Remp said. “We’ve had so many people collect them all and receive a puzzle. I thought it would take people a lot longer, but it’s not good to underestimate students on a mission.” 

In addition to helping students find new locations within the library, these competitions keep students interested in the library and the resources it has to offer. Both Jachim-Gallagher and Moran feel that the library’s Instagram page helped engage and inform the Dartmouth community throughout the pandemic and continues to do so today. 

“The content can be cheesy at times,” Moran admitted. “But I think that’s what makes it really good. [The page] is very active in the community, and they actually talk to people and respond to their dms.” 

“I have my post notifications turned on,” said Jachim-Gallagher. “[The content] is very intriguing and draws people in.” 

Jachim-Gallagher was particularly intrigued by the photos of students on the account.

“I also thought the photo shoots were staged at first, but then I came [to the library] and found out how chill it was — some guy will just walk up and take a picture of you, and then you’ll see it on the page,” Jachim-Gallagher said. “It makes the page feel a lot more homey.” 

“Some guy” is Alex Fick ’25, a student photographer who joined the social media team after Remp saw his photography account on Instagram over the summer and reached out. 

“I help create and get content, and then [Remp] is more on the operational side, making captions and taking other types of photos,” Fick said. “It’s definitely been an outlet for getting other people engaged; when I go around taking pictures of people, they get really excited about being featured.” 

Fick’s work with Remp has helped him better understand content creators. 

“Tom is always looking at the analytics of the post and what does well, what people are engaging with more than other things,” Fick said. “He’s trying to maximize engagement, because that’s how you maximize being able to inform people about resources the library has.” 

In the end, that is the main goal of @dartmouthlibrary: maximizing resources. 

“The sentiment is always that ‘I wish I knew about X sooner’,” Chamberlain said. “Sometimes, that means thinking hard about the role of social media in student’s lives, and sometimes, it’s about finding the right language to use to communicate the point you’re making. The posts may be pictures of Ivy or funny phrases and names, but it always points back to some kind of resource at the library that people wished they knew about sooner.”

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