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Millennials: The Future of the Public Library

by on December 29, 2014

Millennials may not seem like a predominant demographic among library users, but a recent Pew study discredits this idea. Aged 16-29, this age group is far more tech-savvy than older Americans but remains skeptical about the quality of information available on the Internet. As a result, it should come as no surprise that 50% of millennials confirm having used a public library in the last year, a slightly higher total than the 47% of those over 30 [1].

In direct correlation to their higher comfort level with technology, a significant 36% of this age group has visited a library’s website in the last twelve months, 8% more than the 30 and over sector. While the majority of millennials do not indicate a tremendous familiarity with their library’s offerings, this age group is more likely to have read a book in the last year than their older counterparts. In fact, Americans in their late teens—ages 16-17—are the most likely demographic to read books for pleasure, school, or work, and to utilize the library as a research source. Interestingly, older teens also gravitate towards print books over electronic material and are the only demographic who prefer to borrow their reading books over purchasing them [1].

These findings present an interesting task for public librarians. Because millennials are voracious readers and are so deeply rooted in technology, they can represent a wildly untapped market in a library. My library, for example, offers a wide variety of programs and displays for children, teens, parents, and senior citizens, but the age group in between is admittedly underserved. Why is this the case? Many recent political campaigns have focused extensively on marketing to the under-30 bracket with the mentality that young people are traditionally less likely to come out and vote while representing the future of the United States. Shouldn’t we apply this same logic to the public library?

The good news is that with the increased popularity of the “New Adult” genre of fiction—generally geared towards individuals who have recently outgrown YA—there is plenty of fodder for attracting millennials to the library, both through collections and programming. The Pew study shows this demographic is already visiting the library to borrow items; why not also hook them with an innovative program such as a generation-specific book club or interesting lecture? The more we attract millennials, the more likely they will be to remain life-long library users and eventually instill this interest in their children. In short, this age group may be the future of the public library.

Has your library created any specific collections or programming to cater to millennials?

Works Cited

[1] Zickuhr, Kathryn, and Lee Rainie. “Younger Americans and Public Libraries.” Pew Research Internet Project (2014). Web. 25 Oct. 2014. <http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/younger-americans-and-public-libraries/>.

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