Who gives a f***? Why Public Libraries Should Care About Reaching Millennials


Millennials have long been the interest of researchers for their “advanced technology habits, their racial and ethnic diversity, their looser relationships to institutions such as political parties and organized religion, and the ways in which their social attitudes differ from their elders” (PEW, 2014). But for all their positive and interesting attributes, its seems that negative millennial stereotyping tends to dominate the discussion; millennials are a fickle, judgemental, cynical, materialistic, entitled bunch, lazy and just looking to have a good time. Perhaps the most overarching theme to come from these discussions is millennials’ dependance on technology and love of all things social media.

So why should public libraries care?

Millennials are often considered to be the most underrepresented user group in public library settings. While this is not entirely true, roughly 50% of young Americans aged 16-29 reported using their public library in the past year (PEW, 2014), younger Americans are among the least likely to say that libraries are important (PEW, 2014). Further, only 19% of this population stated that their library’s closing would have a major impact on them and their family (PEW, 2014). Obviously, in a world where budgets are already tight and the threat of closure or downsizing looms imminent, this statistic is significant.

So what can be done?


Tailoring library marketing campaigns to millennial patrons is one way of doing it. Seems simple, no? And with 90% of millennials are active on at least one social networking site (PEW, 2014), social media is the way to do it. Further, considering over three-quarters (77%) of younger Americans have a smartphone (PEW, 2014), public libraries have to find a way to appear on their phones!

But public libraries should be careful when using social media – we millennials can be a mean bunch.

For instance, while millennials want to be engaged with brands on social media, some take it too far and become annoying. Multiple posts across a variety of social media platforms becomes repetitive and boring to us. We like authentic and pithy content disbursed to us at regular, timely intervals. It should also be authentically pleasing enough to peak our interest. Got it? Good.


McClary, T. (2014, April 24). Marketing the Public Library to Millennials [Blog]. New Jersey State Library. Retrieved from http://www.njstatelib.org/blog/marketing/2014/marketing_the_public_library_to_millennials/

PEW Research Centre. (2014, September 10). Younger Americans and Public Libraries: How those under 30 engage with libraries and think about libraries’ role in their lives and communities. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2014/09/PI_YoungerAmericansandLibraries_091014.pdf

The G Brief. (2016, January 14). Do Millennials Care About Traditional Libraries? [Blog] The G Brief. Retrieved from http://thegbrief.com/articles/do-millennials-care-about-traditional-libraries-609



Use of Memes in Libraries

While browsing through some of the posts from Shareable Clique (Thanks Meghan for sharing that great resource with the class!) I noticed that some of the most successful library posts incorporated the use of memes. These anecdotal, culturally driven photos and videos provide a handy way to tap into popular culture and get our messages across. Personally, I love a good meme.


Memes are popular on social sites like 9gag, Reddit, and 4chan. Students are particularly responsive communication via meme. This knowledge has been used by Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, who successfully embraced the use of memes as an information dissemination tool. For more info on this study click here.

We all know that feeling…

But. With great power comes great responsibility; memes should be used carefully. Memes are ephemeral, moving in and out of cultural consciousness faster than a Kardashian scandal. Using a meme once it has started to fade in popularity is social media suicide. It marks the user as out of touch, trying to come in too late in the game. For example, Albertsons Library used the Feminist Ryan Gosling meme in a promotion in early 2013. Because the meme had already been around for a while, the promotion was retired after only one month. The meme has since entered academia, becoming a subject for University of Saskatchewan study so, while it may generate interest from scholars, your general audience would probably find it irrelevant. (Link to the USask study here)

Bottom line, memes have to be relatable to your target audience in order to gain momentum. And, just in case you’re not sure, there are useful sites for evaluating the potential effectiveness of your meme. Take this Albertsons Library Y U No Guy example.


What do we think? Memes in libraries? Good or bad?

Here are some interesting links:

42 Library Related Memes

What is a Meme!?

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