Research shows that more young people are visiting the library. How do we encourage these younger readers to return again and again?
In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 53% of Millennials (those aged 18 to 35 at the time) reported using a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation. The survey focused specifically on public libraries.
It’s exciting news for libraries. But more work remains left to be done, particularly with reaching out to potential patrons who don’t use the library. At least, not yet.
Innovate your offerings.
In addition to discovering titles and authors, patrons can find a wealth of new offerings. For example:
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Library encourages visitors to get “creatively messy” with free access to tools to design. Inside a glass room in Main Library in uptown Charlotte, you’ll hear the whirring of machines. It’s the sound of learning and comes from Idea Box, a makerspace that opened to the public in 2015.
- In Appanoose County, Iowa, the Drake Public Library added animals into its summer reading program. Zookeepers from the Blank Park Zoo visit the library and bring animals with them that the children can meet and touch.
- Attracting teenagers can be an added challenge. Hull Culture and Leisure Ltd. hosted a concert in the library inviting famous local musicians to take part and encourage teens and younger adults to visit.
Go outside the library.
In addition to serving patrons who already visit the library, it is imperative that public library systems reach out to those who don’t even come through the door.
One way is to use a Pop Up Library, such as that available from Axis 360, because it lets the library take programming to a captive audience. Watch this video about it!
Smart library systems are harnessing social media to attract new audiences. Think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram just to start.
Social media helps libraries to tell their system’s unique story, and explain the value they are providing in a more consistent voice. YouTube, for example is a great place to share library experiences. View The New York Public Library’s YouTube channel to see what they are doing. Online chat features can connect patrons with librarians who can not only provide information but help build a relationship.
Turn new visitors into repeat ones.
New programming and outreach may bring more visitors into the library, but equally important is getting these newcomers to register with the library and return. Experimental Placement can help libraries track how well special displays and collections are resonating with patrons to inform content placement to better enhance the patron’s experience.
“I’m a big fan of studying the demographics and the sociographics of the culture of a community,” explains Amandeep Kochar, Executive Vice President – Sales, Product Management, Services and Technology Ops at Follett. “As that is changing, and changing very actively, I think the task of attracting people to the library, particularly younger people, is becoming more difficult as the fabric of society changes. Oftentimes, the library needs tools in order to promote their services and tell their stories because they are fighting for the same eyeballs as some of the big corporations out there. And the library has to be equipped with the tools to effectively compete for the time of the current generation and the upcoming generation.”