Millennials and the Library

Marshall Breeding from Vanderbilt University spoke about generational transitions and the current “millennial” generation, those born between 1981-2000. In an academic setting in which Mr. Breeding works, Millennials are the majority of patrons. The basic generational assumptions are that people born during this time have an innate ability for technology, are accustomed to frenetic multitasking, are comfortable with diverse types of digital media, and have a highly interactive style of working.

In developing collections, think of Content, Discovery, and Access. In the area of content, focus on digital collections: audio, video, podcasts, ejournals, ebooks. Discovery refers to the hyperlinked serendipity that happens through regular web surfing—for example, looking up a title in the catalog, reading user reviews, listening to the author interview. The access, then, to library services should be Anytime Anywhere.

As we consider ways to reach out to our teen and young adult users, these are all things to keep in mind. However, it’s not just the library user that needs to be considered. The Millennial generation is the next group that will be working in libraries. Will the library as workplace be welcoming to those who are accustomed to receiving info quickly and from multiple sources; like to parallel process and multitask—listen to music, talk on the phone, answer email all at the same time; work in peer groups; learn while doing instead of the traditional read-then-do learning model?

Also think about website design. Heightened user expectations (all users, not just millennials) require that pages load quickly and that interfaces are highly graphic, not text-based. Consider the conventions in web design that seem to have missed the Library Boat: navigation, simple search interfaces with minimal textual instruction. Mr. Breeding touched on traditional library website design, which he describes as “status quo”, require too much jumping through hoops to get to the content, and are designed for librarians who are text-based learners.

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