But WHY do Millennials use the library the most?

You may have seen this report by CNN and Pew Research earlier this summer that Millennials, the generation currently age 18 to 35, are actually the biggest library users. According to Pew Research, 53% of Millennials visited a library or mobile library in the previous year (does not include campus libraries), whereas only 45% of Generation X-ers visited. Here’s the breakdown:

Here at the Foundation, we think this is really cool! But when we read the “why” section in this CNN report, Abigail Fine, Director of Development, thinks the reporting is a bit off the mark. Abigail is a Millennial herself, but has conducted no additional research—the following is her opinion.

The report says Millennials visit the library more because, “Many libraries have modernized facilities with high-speed Internet and 3D printers.” Abigail doesn’t know any 18-35-year-olds who are looking to use 3D printers—certainly not more than half of the demographic! And did you know that you can basically get internet anywhere these days? For certain populations without access, the library is a primary source for internet. But Abigail thinks there’s something missing from the why in this report.

Here are some additional hypotheses, all the opinion of our Development Director, Abigail. Why are Millennials using the library in greater numbers?

Cash Flow

The cash flow of Millennials is different from our parents’ generation. Millennials are not buying houses or cars like past generations, and student loan debt is one reason why not. So we’re renting or living with our parents instead. We’re putting off starting families, and making all sorts of different spending decisions.

Cash is tight for Millennials, and the library is free.

Sharing Economy

Millennials love the “sharing economy,” utilizing new service models like ZipCar, Lyft, and AirBnB. A recent article in Entrepreneur said, “Sharing and being frugal are now perceived as cool and clever as ownership is not a necessity anymore.”

Isn’t that what the library is? A great big place to (frugally) share resources?

Active & In Person

Millennials have active lifestyles—this includes wellness, and also doing stuff. Learning. The DIY culture—not just with 3D printers. Maybe it’s all those apps like Pinterest that have us wanting to create!

We also like to do things face-to-face with others. We’re not really satisfied with all online interaction, filtered through screens. Hands-on and face-to-face is something we look for.

The library is a place with diverse programming where you can learn, do and engage—with others.

Savvy Searchers + Savvy Marketing

Millennials are savvy about finding out what’s going on. We’re plugged into social media and other communities that give us quality information, fast.

At the same time, I see an improvement in library marketing. The library websites are becoming more visually appealing and easier to navigate. They website and apps are mobile friendly. The social media engagement from libraries has stepped up. I think these efforts may be reaching the target audience! Maybe the savvy searcher plus savvier marketing from libraries means more Millennials are finding our way to the library.

Love of Causes

Millennials care about causes, and have been pushing corporate America towards more socially responsible practices. A recent article in Forbes said, “They want companies to be actively invested in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems.”

The library’s mission to provide resources and access to all is a cause. Millennials probably feel good using the library, knowing that there’s so much give back to the community happening around them. Maybe these Millennials are even going into the library to volunteer! With programs that educate about “Fake News” and support for immigrants and many at-risk populations, the library is a place that Millennials can feel good about giving their business—and they don’t even need cash to do it!

Libraries + Millennials = Perfect Match

For these reasons, we think the library is a perfect fit for the culture and lifestyle of Millennials! What do you think? Are there reasons Abigail missed?

We hope more Millennials will consider supporting and enhancing their libraries, by getting involved with Library Foundations and Friends Groups. We need to grow the next generation of library supporters, not just library users, to keep our libraries going strong!


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