Millennial Library Users Need … What?

Last August I found the MTV study – Young Millennials Will Keep Calm & Carry On – that surveyed Millennials in greater detail than ever before.

MTV set out to understand the younger end of the Millennial demo, 13-17 year olds, who will soon move into the “sweet spot” of MTV’s core target demographic of 18-24 year olds. This is a landmark generational study that builds on MTV’s long legacy of deeply understanding our audience, as part of an effort to constantly reinvent ourselves and stay at the bleeding edge of youth culture.

katniss2. The Hunger Game’s trailblazing survivalist Katniss Everdeen (the younger end of the generation, peeking into Gen Z). This second wave of Millennials, today’s tweens & teens, have known a very different youth. They came of age in an economic downturn, seeing college grads struggling with huge student loan debt and living through a cascade of social media-amplified tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook. For them, life has always been a 24/7 social media show.

It’s a challenging world to traverse, and like Katniss from the Hunger Games, they are navigating life by honing specialized, self-taught (often Internet-acquired) survival skills. They are also utilizing the advice of their pragmatic Gen X parents, who don’t say “the world is your oyster,” but rather “you have to create your own oyster.”

I used MTV’s assessment to make the point that libraries who ignore their younger users do so at their own peril.

As libraries try to figure out how to become relevant to their community, it is critical to understand the patrons/customers/ members/users who are growing up to be the ones who either support your library and become engaged with it, or ignore it as having nothing to offer them. When young people dislike something, it’s nearly impossible for parents to convince them that it is “good for them,” which means the parents may no longer support the library either because it can’t meet their family’s needs.

A recent assessment of Millennials’ purchasing habits claims that their changing interests and behaviors are having detrimental effects on retailers. This is another eye opening example of how libraries must understand their younger users or face the consequences of irrelevance to their community, just like clothing retailers are facing commercial irrelevance. Fast fashion retail eating into American prep’s sales

You won’t find any clothes with Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle logos in Morgan Klein or Stephanie Friedman’s closet anymore.

The twentysomethings prefer the fast fashion route these days – looking for trendy, less expensive clothes at retailers such as Bebe, H&M, and Forever 21.

“I feel Abercrombie is more preppy, and that’s not what I wear anymore,” said Klein, who worked at Abercrombie in her teens.

Friedman holds a similar view. “Everything says Abercrombie all over it, and I don’t really like it,” said Friedman. “If the logos weren’t all over a lot of things, I would probably give it a try again. I think some of the fits are nice and the materials.”

Wall Street is taking notice of teenagers and young adults shying away from brands that used to be a wardrobe staple. The so-called big “A” retailers, Abercrombie, Aéropostale and American Eagle, are slipping out of favor. These stocks are all down by double-digit percentages in the past six months, while the S&P 500 has risen 11.5 percent.

“All you have to do is spend five minutes at an Abercrombie & Fitch and then walk across to an H&M. One striking difference is that Abercrombie is still selling clothes from 1995, but tailored,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief market strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. “H&M has a broader mix of very fashionable apparel at an unbeatable price.”

“The shorter product lead time, basically from design to seeing it on the sales floor, entices the teen each time they are in the mall and online,” Sozzi wrote in a research note on why traditional teen retailers are losing a war. “Kids nowadays don’t want to be boxed into one look like a robot, they want to mix, match and standout.”

H&M, which is part of a growing number of fast-fashion retailers, is adept at getting trends from the catwalk to the sales floor quickly, and at much cheaper prices. It’s a practice traditional chain stores find challenging to adopt, as they place their orders much earlier than fast-fashion stores. For example, many traditional retailers place their holiday orders in April and May, while fast-fashion retailers’ model allows them to order closer to the season.

This retail fashion report tells me two things. First, Millennials are going their own direction away from the “name brand” clothing purchasing trend of the past couple of decades. Retailers used to be able to hang their hat on the fact that young people were unalterably attracted to wearing THE name brand clothing items from head to toe. It made the retail fashion industry rich. Maybe not so much in the future.

Second, the “fast-fashion retailers’ model” has become the new game in town. In recent years in business operations we have seen the “just in time” production-to-market model become the norm. Being able to quickly respond to changing consumer habits has enabled some business to thrive, while those unable to respond wither. A company’s survival depends on its ability to change rapidly in response to its customers’ demands.

The 21st Century Library should be no less customer driven, and no less responsive to their customers’ needs and wants. Being in touch with library users’ interests and habits is more essential to a library’s relevance to its community than ever before.

Understanding the business of the library is paramount to understanding the library’s users and being able to provide them what they want from their library. Without the agility to adapt, libraries will suffer the same decline in business as retail business, because libraries are in the retail business – direct customer service.

[Read: Multidisciplinary – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill

21st Century Libraries and Librarians Look Like: Innovation

The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like]


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4 responses to “Millennial Library Users Need … What?

  1. Pingback: Welcome to the Twitterverse | Southern State of Mind

  2. thechroniclehunter

    Thank you for posting this information. There are teens that attend the library, however they can be a difficult section of our community to get repeat visitation from. Getting them to come into the library can be hard. But, I feel this can be a solution that libraries can tackle. Such as sourcing or developing programs for this emotionally and intellectually diverse age group. I have noticed that some companies have a particular knack for continually revamping themselves for this generational age group, so I agree that libraries can do it too. I am of the same mind that libraries need to stay abroad topics such as these to stay relevant to encourage future and continual use. The implementation of age appropriate e-resources does work, however it does not necessarily develop a sense of community for them, which I think libraries need to start developing. Thanks for sharing.

  3. thechroniclehunter

    Reblogged this on thechroniclehunter and commented:
    Future thoughts for library workers and those who want to stay relevant for future users and current young adult users.

  4. Pingback: New Managing Library Millennials – Stephen's Lighthouse

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