Planning for Multiple Generations at Your Library

Libraries provide a number of important functions to their communities. But, in recent years, they’ve also been expected to serve a variety of generations, often with competing demands.

According to The Pew Research Center Report, conducted in 2017, Millennials are the generation with the highest public library usage. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Millennials = 53 percent

  • Gen Xers = 45 percent

  • Baby Boomers = 43 percent

  • Silent Generation/Traditionalists = 36 percent

As a group, Millennials expect more choices and personalization. They are collaborative multitaskers and experimental learners. For this generation, flexibility and customization is key. For example, instead of computer stations having a traditional layout, you could offer a variety of options. There could be separate stations for printing, scanning, 30-minute usage, standing height and longer-use.

In contrast, Baby Boomers are active, tech savvy and lifelong learners. They enjoy using the library for programs, classes and social activities. Libraries can plan for this by adding classroom spaces for educational programs and open rooms for things, such as Wii bowling tournaments.

Since library etiquette has changed over the years, some Traditionalists may prefer and expect a quiet setting. It’s important to plan for this when designing the space. Adolescent and children areas should be as far away as possible from silent areas. It’s also helps to use acoustical solutions throughout to control sound.

The key to serving each of these groups in your space is to emphasize flexibility in your design. Throughout your library, foster a wide-range of experiences. Create convenience for independent learners, as well as spaces for collaborative learning. We also recommend offering customizable community rooms, so you can easily accommodate events, book clubs, programs and classes for your diverse group of patrons.

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