Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Self-absorbed. Screen-obsessed. Entitled. Lazy. Those are just four of the many stereotypes I’ve heard about young adults.

I’ve raised two Gen-Zers. My daughters, now aged 18 and 22, are hardworking and socially conscious. They set boundaries for their work-life balance. They have an easier time setting down their phones than I do. And they read books from the library.

Their generation and the one before them (Millennials) are the subjects of a study by two researchers from Portland State University. I first learned the results at ALA 2022. This is one of the only studies that shed light on this key demographic’s reading and library habits.

Dr. Rachel Noorda and Kathi Inman Berens’ findings are part of a larger study that included questions about video games, publishing piracy, and TV and movie-watching habits. Noorda and Berens’ drilled down on the results of about 2,000 Millennial and Gen-Z respondents who were part of their original study.

Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a Millennial. Anyone born from 1997 onward is Gen Z.

Pew Research Center

Noorda and Berens made a lot of fascinating discoveries, some of which I’ll cover in an upcoming episode of The Library Marketing Show. Here are five key implications their research has on your library marketing.

Millennials and Gen Z toggle between virtual and physical spaces.

What this means for library marketing: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all your promotions aimed at Millennials and Gen Z need to be in the digital space.

92 percent of people in this age group check social media every day. But 54 percent have visited a physical library location in the last 12 months. That compares with 45 percent of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), 43 percent of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and 36 percent of the Silent Generation (born before 1945).

Remember the Rule of 7 marketing principle: it takes an average of seven exposures to your marketing message before a person will act on it. The rule is less about the number. It means you must promote your library services, collection, and events more than once on multiple channels.

You’ll want to check your platform insights to identify the preferred digital platforms for these two age groups. For most libraries, you’ll likely discover that your Gen Z and Millennial patrons prefer TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and email.

And they love print materials, especially mail! This article has lots of great stats about young adults’ attitudes toward print promotions. It’s clear that postcards, brochures, and magazine-style pieces, must be part of your marketing aimed at Millennials and Gen Z. 

For more tips on communication with Gen Z and Millennials, watch this:   

Millennials and Gen Z reader get their book recommendations from many places including the public library and online library catalogs.

What this means for your library marketing: Collection marketing and readers’ advisory must be a part of your strategic promotions. We want young adults to turn to your library for expert reading recommendations. That will help your library to build loyal users in these two generations.

Booklists need to be front and center on your library’s website. Book recommendations should make up most of your library’s promotions aimed at young adults. And if your library offers personalized readers’ advisory, you should be promoting it specifically targeted to this generation.

Millennials and Gen Z prefer print, eBooks, and audiobooks… in that order.

What this means for your library marketing: Your collection marketing promotions aimed at young adults should include cross-promotion of titles and formats.

The study respondents told Noorda and Berens that they are deterred from checking out digital items by long wait times. So, if there is a shorter wait list for holds in another format, offer a choice. And include read-alikes in multiple formats when the holds list is long.

Don’t feel conflicted about promoting both your print and your digital collections. Over time, promoting print and digital offerings on a consistent basis will drive home the idea that your library is focused on the wants and needs of your community.

Coming up next week: Key points about digital and print reading habits that will help you create effective promotions of both formats!

1 in 3 members of this demographic bought a book they first found in a library.

What this means for your library marketing: Author events at libraries drive book sales. But publishers have no idea that we are helping them make money.

Most libraries work with authors, not publishers, to schedule events. As a result, publishers are often unaware of library events’ positive impact on sales. They need to know that your work is having a positive impact on sales for these two generations.

Your library needs to track, measure, and communicate your full impact on book sales back to publishers. Develop a media kit that defines the audience of the event, and the actual monetary value of promotional platforms like email, social media, and press coverage. Once the event is over, send that data to the publisher directly. 

Millennials and Gen Z readers are motivated to read by escape, self-improvement, and social connection.

What this means for your library marketing: This study uncovered the psychographic motivations of these two generations. Those pieces of information are the key to compelling marketing messages.

The words you use, the images you use, and the emotions you create with your promotions should be focused on evoking these motivations. Think about how you craft your messages to activate the things young adults care about.

Further Reading

Angela’s Latest Book Review

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