By day, Katelyn (McLarty ’14) Cole is an elementary school teacher, wrangling third-graders for the Northwest ISD in Fort Worth, Texas. But in her off time, the ACU alumna has become a popular Instagram influencer with more than 90,000 followers who share her passion for books.
An avid reader – she made her way through 130 books last year – Cole works to ignite the joy of reading in others through her Instagram platform, @bookcasebeauty.
She began Bookcase Beauty in 2019 with a photo of a massive bookcase her husband, Austin (’14), designed and built for their home. The caption on her post was “Desire to fill these shelves and, yet, desire for them to always have space. What are you reading?”
That question caught the attention of other Instagram users, and her following began to grow as her home library filled with volumes.
“It started as a way to track books I’d read and share my thoughts and reviews on an independent platform, separate from my personal profile,” Cole said. “I quickly realized there is a huge reading community on Instagram called ‘bookstagram.’ I began connecting with other readers and felt like I finally had a place to talk about books to my heart’s content and no one was going to get bored.”
I try to work with God at the forefront of my mind in whatever I do. With a growing platform, it is crucial to me that my social community sees me as a source of welcoming joy and connection. I want to be seen as someone who is walking in the light and encourage others to want it, too.
As her social community has grown, so have her connections with publishers. “The four large publishing houses, and many of their imprints, now send me advance copies of titles to read and promote before the book is published,” she said.
More recently, her brand partners have extended beyond publishing houses and include more home and lifestyle promotions, she said.
Her goal was never to become a social media influencer, Cole said. “I truly was just looking for a place to express my thoughts on books.”
But her side hustle brings her a great deal of joy and some unexpected connections.
“I’ve formed some deep friendships with people I’ve never actually hugged,” she said. “We bonded over our hobby of reading, and it’s now expanded to much deeper parts of our lives – families, work, faith. Some of my closest friends have come from the internet. Their FaceTime sessions are some of my favorite calls.”
Bookcase Beauty also has started generating income, which she hopes to continue to grow. But her ultimate goal is to shine the light of Christ.
“I try to work with God at the forefront of my mind in whatever I do,” she said. “With a growing platform, it is crucial to me that my social community sees me as a source of welcoming joy and connection. I want to be seen as someone who is walking in the light and encourage others to want it, too.”
The Coles live with an 11-year-old English pointer named Copper, who has been with them since their college days, and a classroom pet hedgehog named Quilliam. Both are frequently featured on Bookcase Beauty.
But the star of her Instagram account remains the massive bookshelf.
“It’s always a huge talking point,” Cole said. “It is eye-catching when scrolling through Instagram and tends to draw people in, and then they stick around.”
– Robin Saylor
Jan. 13, 2022