There are several lists out there describing what millennials desire most in life (millennials described as people born between the 80s and early 2000s). You’ve got this list of pop culture references (mainly for those that grew up in the 90s and 00s), some things millennial girls love, and the most poignant Top 10 Things Millennials Want in a Hotel. So, what is your library doing to appeal to this generation?
The Sacramento Public Library has an established brand for their 20 & 30 somethings. It’s called “alt+library” and has quite the following of 600+ members on their Meetup group. They even have an alt+library Friends group that hosts craft programs in the summer months and then later sells the crafts and books at a little local craft fair. Lori Easterwood, the Programming and Partnerships Coordinator at Sacramento Public Library, is inspired to create & bring programs for her library based on her own creative interest. Also with the help of this fabulous community center called Workshop. And what beautiful programs they have made. Some of their programs include book discussions, workouts to various music genres (punk, goth, metal), themed workouts including zombie survival aerobics, Haunted Stacks (hosted by the local history archive), Bad Art Night, and, my favorite, Broke A$$ Holidays (DIY crafting). The last three have been the most popular, with Haunted Stacks bringing in about 100+ each year. They’re also partnering with a local art museum and having a Festivus celebration this year. FESTIVUS, people.
If you look at your adult programs, do you have anything awesome like these? Would you attend the programs? We have a fantastic following of adult patrons that attend our history-focused programs, so we focus our programming on what those patrons want (because they’re visibly showing their interest). But what if the patrons aren’t showing up at all because there have never been programs that they would be interested in attending?
In order to reach out to the demographic we rarely see at the library (especially the programs), we followed suit of Sacramento and created a book club solely for 20- & young 30-year-olds called “20s Books & Brew“. Its focus is on socializing and sharing opinions all while enjoying a good brewski. Although our intention is not to be ageist, we wanted to provide a book club that was labeled for 20s and 30s, giving this demographic their own special group, much like there are senior book clubs.
We draw from a wide background of mainly single, college-educated graduates with many micro-brew beer enthusiasts. I say mainly because we have several dedicated members that are married, have children, did not attend college, or are more wine fans. Because beer is involved, we also get a much higher turn out of males than any other library book club–also, a much higher turn out in general. When we started, we had about 6-8 people per book discussion, and now we fetch around 15-20 every month. We also have about half Fremont patrons that attend and half out-of-town, which we do not view as a problem (we all serve reciprocal borrowers).
As more and more people began attending the book club, we have made a few alterations:
- We split up into smaller book discussions and have volunteer group leaders (I prepare the questions so that the group leader has something to work with). After the discussion has died down, we take a break and everyone takes a notecard and writes their opinion of the book in one sentence. I collect the notecards and read aloud the quick reviews, giving everyone a chance to voice their opinion.
- We ask for money. $2 cash if you plan on eating appetizers, $10 cash if you plan on getting an alcoholic drink and will be eating appetizers. This way we only have one bill for the waiter/ess. Any more additional alcohol purchases are done at the bar.
- Switched the day of the week because Thursdays are a popular restaurant night. We did this because our group can be promised a section to seat 15-20 people.
I think that one of the coolest things about this group is the format. At the beginning of the book club, the host librarians were choosing the books. But it became very clear that the members were interested in having a say. They also valued the book club for its ability to expose them to books they may have never read of their own accord. So, every other book club, we vote on various book genres. The librarians then choose five acclaimed books of each genre and the members get to vote on the book we will read.
Meetup is a fabulous venue for hosting this sort of program that draws a younger-age crowd. You can gauge basic interests of the audience by requesting answers for simple questions when they join your meetup. Ours are, “Intro,” “What kinds of books do you like to read?” and “What kind of beer do you prefer?” The poll option is wonderful for voting on books. It can also be a “safe” way to promote something that might be frowned upon by a more conservative audience. I’m talking the use of the word “a$$” here.
If you’re concerned about catching negative attention, Lori Easterwood offers her experience.
“Our administration is extremely supportive of this programming, and willing to take some chances to reach new people for library services. Astoundingly, no one has complained! We did talk about the possibility that being so deliberately provocative might cause problems, but our promotion strategy is very targeted (mostly online, and opt-in through meet-up) so I think we’ve avoided some trouble simply by flying under the radar of non-target audiences.”
So what are my top suggestions to start your own 20s/30s book club?
- Do it at a bar/restaurant that serves good beer. You would not believe the amount of positive responses we received about us being beer-centric.
- Use Meetup. It’s a great organizational tool. Groups also have to pay to have a meetup so it’s a little more reputable and reassuring for members to join up with a group of strangers.
I asked Lori what her favorite patron responses from programs were, and she referenced a favorite response from a fitness program, “I’ve never been this sweaty in a library.” Sweat away, millenials. Sweat away.