Across the country, public libraries are creating new and exciting programs in partnership with local businesses in order to reach more Millennial patrons. (Millennials are often considered an elusive group to those who plan library programming, though studies suggest that they are inclined to utilize their local libraries.) Considering the proliferation of local breweries in recent years, programming around beer has become a popular method to access those who might not think to attend public library events.
The Jefferson County Public Library in Colorado is currently partnering with nearly 20 local breweries for a six-week program called Stouts & Stories, Ales & Tales. A program “passport” provides coupons to participating breweries; using coupons earns stamps, which in turn earn beer-related prizes like a bottle opener and an etched pint glass. The passports also direct patrons to beer-centric programming as part of the program, including trivia nights and talks by local brewers.
Staff at Jefferson County (CO) Public Library had noticed that their library system experienced a persistent decrease in use by adults 18-35, and thought that a tie-in with local beer was a good way to hook those underrepresented patrons. “There’s this 10- to 15-year age gap that we really want to reach back out to and re-engage and help them rediscover everything the library is,” said Cindy Matthews, the system’s promotions and marketing manager. “The library is not the library they remember from their childhood. It is so very different — so much more vibrant.” Connecting a public library card to discounted beer is one creative way to illustrate that point.
In Kentucky, the Louisville Free Public Library will soon begin the second year of its adult winter reading program that encourages patrons to read and attend programs, both at library branches and at the locations of community partners: a local brewery, coffee shop chain, and fitness consortium. Beer, coffee, and fitness themed events attract both new and existing library users, and tying multiple local entities together is mutually beneficial for the library and partnering businesses.
It is important to note not all beer-themed programming necessarily involves the consumption of beer at the program itself. But for those that do, partnerships with local breweries can facilitate programs that might otherwise be hindered by a library’s alcohol policy.
Whether or not beer is your library’s cup of—um—tea, there are some helpful tips to keep in mind when planning programs to attract Millennial patrons. Try to create library programs that imitate events patrons would normally have to pay for, and ask yourself: Would I want to come to this program? Promotion is also key, as always. To enhance your promotions for Millennials, ask what they want, be responsive, and (skillfully) utilize social media.