A lot has been written about Millennials in the workplace, but are you ready for Generation Z? According to the Pew Research Center, members of Generation Z were born from 1997 to 2012. The oldest of Generation Z is now 22, and the youngest is 7. Their age means that in the next year, more and more members of Gen Z will enter the workforce as they graduate college.
Generation Z has lived in a context that includes many social networks, mobility, and more than any prior generation are the true digital natives. Additionally, members of Gen Z are entering adulthood with less work experience than any previous generation. “Roughly one-in-five 15- to 17-year-olds in 2018 (19%) report having worked at all during the prior calendar year, compared with 30% of Millennial 15- to 17-year-olds in 2002” (Pew Research).
So, what does this mean for special libraries? How do we create spaces and resources that meet the needs of Generation Z?
Ideas for Engaging Generation Z
Create Relevant Services and Resources: Marketing companies have concluded that the average attention span of a member of Gen Z is 8 seconds (Patel, 2017). Due to short attention spans, we need to capture Generation Z’s attention quickly. If services or resources are not immediately seen as relevant, they will move on.
However, Generation Z does like dialogue and, if given opportunities, will engage in conversation with us about what they want, what they need, and why those things are important to them. Relevancy is important to Gen Z. Too often, it is easy to advertise only part of what we offer in libraries when, in fact, the thing we might be ignoring is the thing most relevant to some individuals. Also, highlight why individuals should care about the service or resource and how the particular service and resource will be useful.
When decisions have to be made about what services and resources to advertise, use data to make decisions about what will be most helpful and of interest. Take the opportunity to solicit feedback from Generation Z during onboarding and training sessions.
Also, since members of Generation Z have less work experience than previous generations at the same point in their lives, we need to make it clear how the library can help with their work.
Add more digital content: Consider the library’s social media presence and what social media is most relevant for this group. Millennials were big users of Facebook. While Generation Z is still on Facebook, they are more likely to use YouTube and Instagram. In fact, YouTube has been cited as being their favorite website. Additionally, Generation Z uses their smartphones more than any other type of device, so connecting with them through apps is key.
Focus on easy access: Because of how immersed Generation Z is with technology they expect instantaneous results. Anything too cumbersome will not hold their attention. As we think about our libraries, work to streamline access to content. However, despite their love of all things digital Generation Z reports still preferring to read in print because of the experience. Generation Z reads a huge amount of content online already and reading in print is often a nice change for them.
Increase in usable space: If our library has space for employees to visit and work in, make sure to include plenty of power outlets. If there are not enough outlets, members of Gen Z will likely gravitate elsewhere. Additionally, create spaces that are flexible and intuitive and where they have room to work alongside others. One of the primary ways members of Gen Z likes to work is by themselves, but in a group (Demco Interiors).
Engaging with Generation Z will soon become part of our day-to-day work lives. Being prepared for the needs of this group will help the library remain a valued resource.
Demco Interiors. (n.d.). How to design engaging libraries for FE. Retrieved from https://www.demcointeriors.co.uk/how-to-design-engaging-libraries-for-fe/
Fry, R., & P. K. (2018). Early benchmarks show ‘post-millennials’ on track to be most diverse, best-educated generation yet. Pew Research. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/11/15/early-benchmarks-show-post-millennials-on-track-to-be-most-diverse-best-educated-generation-yet/
Patel, D. (2017). 5 differences between marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/11/27/5-d%E2%80%8Bifferences-%E2%80%8Bbetween-%E2%80%8Bmarketing-%E2%80%8Bto%E2%80%8B-m%E2%80%8Billennials-v%E2%80%8Bs%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8Bgen-z/#31c9e8702c9f
Pew Research. (2019). The generations defined. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/ft_19-01-17_generations_2019/
Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Previously, she worked as an Instructional and Research Librarian at a private college in the Kansas City metro-area. Please learn more about Lauren and read her other posts about skills for special librarians; then take a look at Lucidea’s powerful ILS, SydneyEnterprise, used daily by innovative special librarians.
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