Tag Archives: Millennials

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

AF
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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Meet The Millennials – Harry and Katniss


Harry1. The magical wizard Harry Potter (the “older” end of the generation) These “first wave Millennials” (today’s 20-somethings) came of age in the economic boom of the 90s/early ‘00s, a time infused with the spirit of “Yes We Can” and the belief that college, working hard and playing by the rules would guarantee future success. Raised by idealistic Boomer parents, they were told they were special and gifted, with a magic wand capable of changing the world. They were shaped by a context of seemingly limitless possibilities.

Katniss
2. 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.”

This assessment is based on a recent study – Young Millennials Will Keep Calm & Carry On – by MTV.

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.

Millennials are one of the most analyzed, scrutinized, criticized and even glorified generations ever. But what much of Millennial research fails to recognize is that there are two distinct groups within the generation, as illustrated by MTV’s new study.

Generational analysis has always been very vague and generalized because to be more specific about people who were born and grew up almost 20 years apart, as in Boomers born in 1946 compared to those born in 1964, is a difficult task. Few researchers felt the need to be more specific. Early Boomers are very different from late Boomers, because society changed drastically from the post-WWII “Rock-n-Roll” era to the psychedelic “Hippy” era.

The rest of the article goes on to elaborate on the younger segment of Millennials, focusing on four important traits.

Life-Prepping
These pragmatic youth are natural preppers in the face of an unpredictable world – whether planning for physically safety in light of violence or prepping for their futures in a more uncertain economic climate.

Specializing
Young Millennials are consummate brand managers, honing their unique personal brand to stand out and specialize in a world that’s increasingly competitive (whether that’s in terms of obtaining a following online or getting into college.)

Mono-tasking
YMs are consciously taking time to self-soothe (a classic coping mechanism from hyper-stimulation) disconnect, de-stress, de-stimulate and control inputs. They “mono-task” and focus on immersive hands-on activities like baking, sewing or crafting. They claim their dependence on social media is overrated: one girl says “My parents Facebook more than I do.”

Hyper-Filtering
This is the first generation of “digital latchkey kids.” Though increasingly physically protected by parents, teens’ web behavior is not as closely monitored. But like the Gen X Latchkey Kids who created their own rules and regimes while parents worked, youth today are surprisingly filtering out what’s overwhelming to them online: avoiding certain Youtube videos or sites that they think are gross, inappropriate or disturbing.

So what? This is about your library’s survival!
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.

It is important to know that younger Millennials may be more receptive to your library website and social media – if it is designed well – because,

Unlike older Millennials who were pioneers in the “Wild West of social media,” today’s teens are “tech homesteaders” – they’re more savvy about how to use the internet, build “gated” groups, “hide in plain view”, curate and filter.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY OF LIBRARY USERS, AND ARE YOU MEETING THEIR NEEDS?

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Engage Your Millennials


Recently my wife and I have been frequenting some new establishments, as well as some old ones we haven’t frequented in quite a while. The reason I mention this is because it struck us that we are experiencing more Millennials in these retail establishments and they are very friendly. They are gregarious, open, engaging, articulate and sincerely interested in being helpful. I could even say they seem enthused about their jobs. Overall this makes the establishment more inviting, someplace that one enjoys going to get their services, and the level of service is noticeably better in these places. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with every establishment and all Millennials, but the good ones seriously shine.

Still not getting my point? It’s more perspective about The Perception of Your Library. A few months ago I visited a library for a conversation with the director, and I was greeted by the person behind the front desk as if I was a relative she hadn’t seen in a long time. The greeting was so sincere and enthusiastic, it made me quickly question whether I knew her, or she knew me. I was pretty sure not. The feeling that kind of greeting gives a library customer is one that makes them want to be there, and want to come back. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a Millennial, but the Millennials I’ve run into lately have given us the same feeling – they are sincerely happy that we are in their establishment.

One place we recently ‘discovered’ was an Italian deli, because someone recently exposed us to the less familiar but more delectable elements of Italian cuisine. Our exploration has led us to be more adventuresome in trying new dishes and ingredients. The most recently impressive Millennial we encountered was extremely helpful in answering our questions, offering us samples, explaining the uses of the ingredients, and even interested in our ‘story.’ She told us her name and proudly announced that she was “The Cheese Monger.” She asked our names and expressed how pleased she was that we had ‘discovered’ them, asking us to come back soon. It was a very pleasant and beneficial experience, and we definitely will return – soon.

In my Post of February 17, 2010, “21st Century Library Customers – Generation Y, the Millennials“, I reported – among other characteristics – that;

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, … 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”.

In light of my recent personal interactions with Millennials, I think I can interpret those observations as meaning they are very good at engaging with customers, creating that welcoming atmosphere, promoting teamwork in the workplace, and showing a dedication for their work and organization that inspires their customers with the desire to return.

They are the perfect people to create a perception of your library as;
Welcoming
Helpful
Knowledgeable
Innovative
Futuristic
“The Place”

ADDENDUM:
Thank you Steve,
It is easy enough to forget the positive aspects of working with Millenials, and your observations are apt reminders of that. We have an ongoing collaboration with a city-wide summer youth employment program, and begin an internship program for aspiring librarians in collaboration with our community high school in the fall. Both exemplify the possibilities of engaging with young adults in positive ways and moving beyond stereotypes. I’d be happy to share the details. Anyone who would like the proposed curriculum for our collaboration can e-mail me at bfarwell@otis.lioninc.org

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Digital Natives Want ‘More’ From Their Public Libraries


A colleague recently put me onto a study by the Idaho Commission for Libraries that collected feedback on “Perceptions of Idaho’s Digital Natives on Public Libraries“. It is a very comprehensive, eye-opening, and highly useful study from which I believe all public library leaders can benefit.

Since Digital Natives comprise the next big challenge in library customers, it is highly useful to know their opinions of their community library. This study provides that – and more. One puzzling finding is that focus group respondents reported that that believe that “Information on the Internet is not always trustworthy.” and they also believe that “Overall, information obtained through books and libraries is much more trustworthy than information found online.” Yet, they admit that “The Internet is typically the starting point when a search for information is begun.”

What would account for this contradiction? Well, “Convenience is most important when digital natives look for information.” and “Libraries are mostly for young children and older adults, but not for those that fall into the age range that encompasses digital natives.” because “Libraries are perceived to be an old-fashioned, cumbersome way to get information.”

So, what could libraries do to make themselves more attractive to Digital Natives? “Understanding how libraries should be used is important, and would help make the library less intimidating.” Also, “Libraries should elicit opinions and ideas from younger digital natives when creating programs and services targeted for this group.” Libraries could also create “Library activities that provide opportunities for social interaction [that] are very appealing to younger digital natives.” And to attract older digital natives, libraries could create the “Hands-on experience [that] is perceived to be the most valuable source in older digital natives’ learning experiences.” – such as a technology petting zoo.

Another important element is “The fact that older digital natives believe that libraries should act as a hub for community information is reflected in their choices for potential library services and resources.”

10) Web-based resources offered by public libraries should include reference tools.
The preferred resources chosen by the older digital natives were all related to accessing information online. This is despite the perception that public libraries would not be able to afford to offer resources equal to what a university provides online to its students. Still, it is an indicator of the importance that digital natives place on convenient access to reliable information.

This is a very valuable and comprehensive study presented for Idaho library community application, but which – IMHO – has nearly universal application to every library interested in providing services to their Digital Native customers.

How well do you know your Digital Native customers? What services/programs do you have aimed at fulfilling their needs?

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Millennials & the NEW American Dream


Born between 1981 and 2000, also known as “The 9/11 Generation” and possibly “Echo Boomers”, this generation is now in the workforce, and the second half of the generation is entering college.

This generation is said to be a sharp departure from Generation X. I believe that, and what’s more frightening, they believe government owes them something – $$$$$

FOX & Friends News interviewed a Florida college professor on the results of a class project about – The American Dream. As noted, the results are jaw dropping!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxHfYNTrnic

How will this generation of library customers affect the future of librarians, and libraries?

Please ignore the political overtones of this news piece, because politics is not my purpose or point in posting this. It’s about the impact in libraries from this generation of library customers.

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