I’m a millennial and I struggle with the knowledge that others my age don’t visit physical libraries very often. Obviously I’m biased, but I think libraries have a lot to offer my peers in terms of acting as a community center, connecting them to professional development opportunities, and broadening their horizons with programs on new topics. I have another motive for wanting to see more of my peers in libraries, though. I’ve moved five times in the last five years, and the more I get to know other young professionals, the more I realize this isn’t at all uncommon for people just beginning their careers and adult lives. With twentysomethings living increasingly nomadic lives, it’s so hard for many of us to make friends.
And that selfish reason is probably one that most of us can relate to. For any adult working full time, nailing down a place where you can bump into like-minded people is no easy task.
So, yes. Bring on the young people at my library.
In trying to accomplish this, I’ve experimented with a few different methods. First, I tried just throwing out a topic I thought most of my peers could get behind. I tried a Trivia Night and a Game of Thrones party (the latter I can write about later). No dice. From these failed programs, I learned that I am seriously hindered by my inability to post to social media about programs. (A policy story that I won’t get into.)
But then I got a great opportunity when the county manager put together a young professionals group. Seeing this as my shot at the big leagues, I stepped up and immediately offered to host a book club on behalf of the library.
The coordinator said, “whoa, now. Let’s meet everyone first and talk it over.” So I used some of my excessive comp time to go to a Happy Hour where we could all meet each other for the first time. Honestly, I thought I was going to have to butter people up to get them interested in a book club, but I was so joyfully surprised to find that they all loved books. And not just any books. INTELLECTUAL NONFICTION.
World, did you know that intellectual nonfiction is my jam?!
So the cosmos granted me a wish and we picked a book that same night. I also offered to host a mixer for another night where we could play a version of speed dating that I call Flash Friending. (Leave me a comment if you want some details about how to do this.) Men rolled their eyes, but the ladies in the group liked the idea.
To date, I’ve hosted the mixer and will be hosting the book club next week. And you know what? Guys liked Flash Friending, too. *reciprocal eye roll* The group is growing slowly and we have an increasing number of book choices on our list for future book clubs. Others are starting to offer hangout sessions, too.
I haven’t had any luck offering to host these programs inside the library, but my director is gracious and allows me to count programs done in restaurants as outreach as long as I’m not drinking. I’m hoping that one day I can get some of them into the library since my branch is particularly swanky and probably not what they were imagining. (It’s a renovated factory building and we’re on the top floor, overlooking the railroad tracks and new city park.)
So I guess the take home message is, if you want more millennials in the library, starting with a young professionals group isn’t such a bad idea.