21st Century Library Customers – Generation Y, the Millennials

Generation Y
Generation Y (considered to be born from 1982 through 2001), so labeled as a follow on to the previous Generation X, but self labeled as Millennials (wanting to disassociate themselves with the previous GenX). Most distinctively, they are indeed a “new” generation of learner, consumer, citizen and library patron.

There is debate as to whether Gen Y’s parents are Baby Boomers or GenXers. Truth is, both, their parents are generally very late Boomers, and early GenXers. Early Boomers tended to have children younger than the late Boomers and GenXers, so there tends to be a confusing overlap between the early Boomers who had early GenX kids, and late Boomers and early GenXers who had kids around the same time. (These things are never neat or lend themselves to easy categorization, which is one of the drawbacks of this ‘generation labeling’.)

Millennials are typified by their use of instant communication technologies, are also somewhat peer-oriented (which means they prefer the opinions of anonymous peers to that of ‘experts’), are into expression and acceptance, are more culturally tolerant than previous generations, have an inclination for delaying some of the rites of passage into adulthood, and trend toward living with their parents for longer than previous generations. They are generally considered the “Trophy Kids”, due to the “everybody’s a winner” approach to group activities, and as a result tend toward generational consensus building. They like to work collaboratively, and prefer to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

They also believe in “doing” as opposed to “learning to do”. To illustrate that point, I recently found a Blog with a post titled “Skills for the 21st Century Librarian” by Meredith Farkas, dated July 17, 2006. (Meredith Farkas is a self proclaimed librarian, writer, teacher and tech geek, and appears to be a GenY or Millennial from her picture.) She posted the following Basic Tech Competencies item;

4. Ability to easily learn new technologies: One of my colleagues often comments that there are so many new technological things at the library that she can’t keep up. She was really intimidated by the new scanner we got this past year and asked IT to send an expert to the library to teach her how to use it. In my opinion, the best way for her to learn the scanner is to play with it. It’s hard to learn the scanner for the first time when a student is asking you how to use it. It’s easy to learn the scanner at a time when no one is using the scanner and you’re just casually playing with it. When I want to learn a new technology, I put it through the paces. I try to do all of the things it’s supposed to do. Sometimes I read the documentation if there are things that I find confusing. Learning about technology is definitely a skill. People need to learn how to learn about new technologies without having to ask other people for help all the time.

Point proven! Thank you Meredith. AND! In a reply to one of Meredith’s other postings about 21st Century Librarian Skills, “Bill Says: “I have a high school intern right now that has better tech skills than most all the librarians I know. Isn’t that just sad?” ” Well, no it’s not sad, it’s simply a fact and a major distinction between Digital Natives (Millennials) and Digital Immigrants (everybody else). MAJOR DISTINCTION!

This is the generation librarians should focus on and study, not because there are 60+ million of them, but because they are such a different consumer that in order to address their library service interests, public libraries will have to take it to them. They do not recognize any “need” for library services, and seldom seek traditional services from public libraries! Older generations will progressively become consumers of less library services, while the future belongs to the young. It is understood that Millennials are “into” email, texting, IMing, Flickr, YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, and whatever the latest electronic means of communication happens to be. They communicate using social media technology. They visit the library to collaborate and socialize. They have integrated technology into their life and it is now a necessity for them, because they grew up with technology and the Internet and are “Digital Natives”.

Some interesting YouTube resources:

Jason Dorsey: Gen Y Keynote Speaker (9:58)

Millennial Generation (2:42)

Motorola Millennial Generation Research Study (1:40)

Who are the Millennials? (1:31)

Millennials: The New Brand of Creatives (5:12)

Millennial Generation A Counterpoint (2:05)


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One response to “21st Century Library Customers – Generation Y, the Millennials

  1. Pingback: Fleekness of millenials : DLRC’s challenge in the 21st century – Site Title

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