Ranging from their late 20s to early 40s, millennials most likely make up a big part of your current community. Thus, it is important that you cater to some of their needs in order to attract them to your library. Guest writer Soraya Madiji shares her tips below on how you can achieve this.
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The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a person born in the 1980s or 1990s as a millennial, sandwiched between generation X and generation Z. Based upon data collected by the PEW Research Centre in 2017, millennials are considered to be heavy users of public libraries. As a busy regional centre located in Western Australia our experience supports this assessment.
Our observations of millennials, who in 2022 are between the ages of 26 to 40, are attracted to four key elements:
Millennials enjoy spaces that offer privacy, quiet and opportunities for more active collaborations. Generally speaking, public libraries do not have the financial capacity to reconfigure or upgrade spaces to make them more attractive, however; simple steps can be taken to create a sense of privacy or busyness on a limited budget. For example, plants can be used to create privacy screens. A tall potted plant behind or next to a chair provides a visual cue of refuge, without requiring a structural change or blocking light. Purchasing a booth with seating, even in a busy open area along a wall or in the middle of a space, with a plant placed alongside, suggests both quiet and collaboration and will entice a person or people to stay, especially if outlets for charging technology are close by.
For millennials with young children, a chair for nursing in a quiet area will encourage them to stop and can be fashioned simply with an allocated chair, softer lighting and a plant for greater privacy.
Visual chaos with too much signage and clutter can be overwhelming, generating a visceral response of unease. Limiting signage, decluttering and keeping spaces free flowing adds greater attractiveness. Our brains are wired to seek out patterns and order, so it is unnecessary to have lots of information on display. Generally, people will ask staff for direction and assistance if they cannot figure out where they need to go.
Millennials often have children, so the delivery of library programs designed for babies and school aged children is an appealing draw card. Library programs that are free or offered at low cost adds an extra layer of attraction for those who may be on lower incomes but want entertainment and interaction, with opportunities to meet and network with others in a safe and welcoming environment.
Weeding hard to reduce superfluous or cluttered collections brings rewards, as items are borrowed more frequently. Well-presented and curated collections are appealing, and it has become increasingly apparent that it is not necessary to keep items about every subject in the library. Adding more forward facing shelves may seem counter-intuitive, in that collections may be reduced as space becomes an issue, but the capacity for greater discovery increases, as items are seen, demonstrated in the success of book stores. With publishers spending a lot of money in artwork for book covers, it is a pity that spines of books receive greater prominence in library collections. Consideration to splitting collections, for example fiction into genre, allows millennials, often time poor, to head directly to their interest area. A well-placed and presented ‘Recent Returns’ space is also useful, as browsing what other people have read is not only interesting but offers a quick, one stop shop for those in a hurry.
In addition to physical collections, well promoted eResources are also enticing. Being able to download a free audio book while on the train to work offers an excellent reason to join the library. Promoting well thought out collections of both physical and digital items is appealing, as it offers greater choice.
Many libraries offer high speed internet and WiFi services making them attractive for millennials. With services offered free by most public libraries, this becomes a tempting draw card, as costs for maintaining and using a mobile device are mitigated, important for those on limited incomes. Some public libraries also offer Makerspaces, where millennials can meet to share ideas, equipment, technology and knowledge to work on individual or collective projects. Allocating a portion of the library budget to upgrade and maintain technology is a worthwhile spend, guaranteeing that libraries remain attractive. If budgets allow, providing self-service technology is a smart investment allowing greater freedom and flexibility. Offering a hybrid, customer service model where both library staff and self-service checkouts are available offers greater choice.
Using social media platforms to promote and market library services, programs, events and activities is important, as most millennials operate comfortably in these spaces. These platforms are increasingly the preferred way to communicate and share information, so libraries need to develop strategies and skills to be effective in these online spaces in order to both engage and inform.
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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