This is a tricky one. Many librarians might think that the 21st Century customer is the same patron that frequented the library in 1999 and prior, and in some respects they are correct. But, we let the 21st Century sneak up on us in terms of preparing for a “new” patron/customer. Marketing has done pretty good at figuring out that 21st Century consumers wanted iPhones, Kindles, iPads, smaller laptops, and all types of technology. Public libraries have NOT figured out that the 21st Century customer does not need 20th Century library services. Unless we want to see brick & mortar libraries go the way of the rotary dial telephone, the transistor radio, and the cathode ray tube, we need to understand the “new” library patron and adapt library services to meet their interests, because they do not appear to have library service “needs” and will not seek services from public libraries! The question: “What does the 21st Century public library offer?”
Five Generations of Library Customers
As many observers point out, this is the first time in history that there have been five (5) generations in the workplace at the same time. (Actually most business analysts and commentators tend to overlook the Silent Generation in this collection, even though they have as many if not more members in the workplace than the Greatest Generation, and claim only four (4) generations in the workplace.) We have The Greatest Generation (I like Tom Brokaw’s 1998 description, “this is the greatest generation any society has produced.” over the ‘G.I. Generation’ label.), Silent Generation (often lumped in with the Greatest Generation), Baby Boomers, GenX and GenY or Millennials (as they have labeled themselves). That is an impressive situation, and speaks volumes in itself, but that’s another story. Obviously, since each was born and raised under VERY different times and circumstances, there are significant differences in each generation, and, a DRASTIC difference between the Greatest Generation and the Millennials – DRASTIC in the sense of being very different library customers!