Written by Jimmie Epling   

Millennials, Reading, and Key Life Moments 

By Jimmie Epling

Who would have thought the Millennial generation, the twenty to thirty something crowd, would actually be reading more than Generation Xers and Baby Boomers?  Aren’t Millennials supposed to be superficial, self-obsessed, and anti-___________ (you fill in the blank).  We are told this is the techno native junkie generation that lives with a smartphone in their hand and often suffer from thumb repetitive stress syndrome due to hyper texting.  If this is your perception of Millennials, you are going to be surprised to learn that according to a Pew Research Center survey (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/younger-americans-and-public-libraries/), they are reading more books than the over-30 crowd.  You would expect this to be good news for the Darlington County Library System, but it comes with a caveat!  Millennials tie their use of public libraries to how relevant they are in their life! 

Americans generally adore their public libraries.  According to another Pew Research study (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/04/07/libraries-and-learning/) 76% of Americans say that libraries serve the needs of their community well, even though usage has dropped slightly at some libraries across the country.  In Darlington County, community use of the Library is on track to be just as good as last year.  Even though public libraries remain popular, what has caused the decline in usage in some places?  Your first thought might be technology.  The advent of the Internet, e-books, online databases, and the like are all credited with the decline in usage.  Yes, they have had an impact on libraries, but the real impact on public library usage across the county can be traced to how much a local community can support its public library.  The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal agency, found in 2012 that as funds for a public library’s collections, services, programs, and staffing increased, so did use by the community, such as in visits, program attendance, and circulation.  When funding was reduced, the public library saw decreases in use.  Simply put, the less you can offer, the less use you will see.  The IMLS study noted one very important point to keep in mind.  When public library funding is reduced, the resulting decrease in use is less than the funds cut percentagewise.  People continue to use their local public libraries because they are relevant to their lives because they can freely access materials or information, public computers, and its facilities as a community gathering place.  The country’s economy has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but the Darlington County’s use of its Library has remained steady.  So how does this relate to the reading habits of Millennials and their use of the Library?  

According to the Pew study on Millennials, some 88% of Millennials said they read a book in the past year compared with 79% of those older than 30.  These same Millennials are also less likely to see public libraries as essential in their lives.  Those who use public libraries do so because they have formed deep connections with them because “they are often associated with key life moments, such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student, and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a decision."  Twenty to thirty somethings value public libraries not for the books, but as a place linked to their life.  It should come as no surprise to anyone what Millennials want in their public library, as it is what everyone wants in their public library, a place that is connected to their life.  Our goal is to use the resources the community provides the Library to be “your place for ideas, insight, inspiration, and innovation.”  

What have we done in the past couple of years for the Library to be part of those “key life moments” the Millennials mentioned?  

We are committed to instilling in children a love of reading because we know those who read succeed in life.  That is why you will find extensive children’s programming at all four locations of the Library.  The Library had a successful winter reading program for children this year and will shortly announce its annual summer reading program, “On Your Mark, Get Set,…READ!”   We partner with other agencies, like First Steps and Carolina Pines Hospital to provide parents of newborns with a “Welcome Baby Bag.”  We have become testing sites for the Darlington County School District’s Accelerated Reader (AR) program in a joint effort to prevent the “summer slide” in children’s reading skills during their summer vacation. 

We had well over 160,000 people use our public computers and WiFi internet for a wide variety of purposes, such as job hunting, filing government forms, school work, and much more.  When Walmart was overwhelmed by applicants for its new Darlington location, the Library was able to provide additional access to its online application system. 

For students of all ages, the Library provides free access to high quality information resources not only during its regular hours, but also online 24/7 through its website at www.darlington-lib.org.  There are dozens of research databases to search in DISCUS.  Learn over 70 languages through Mango Languages.  Universal Class offers hundreds of useful classes for work, school, or fun.  Trace your ancestors through Ancestry.com.  While in some places fewer people may be visiting libraries than in recent years, more Americans are turning to library websites for free access to reliable and authoritative information resources and for free e-books, e-magazines, and e-audiobooks for all ages.

Given the hype surrounding the lifestyle of the typical Millennial, who would have imagined they were voracious readers?  Smart Millennials know they must be able to read to be successful.  Millennials maybe aren’t so different from other generations in that they are readers and want their public library to be there for them in “key life moments” with relevant collections, programs, and services.  The Darlington County Library System is not just about books.  It is about reading and being there for you in those “key life moments!”   

April 25, 2016

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 July 2016 )