PA Forward: Programming for Millennials | Compendium
Michelle Georgetti

Michelle Georgetti

by Michelle Georgetti

At the Pennsylvania Library Association’s Annual Conference, Katie LaMantia and Emily Vinci of Schaumburg Township District Library in Illinois led a session titled “Creating Great Programs for Millennials.” Ms. LaMantia and Ms. Vinci are coauthors of A Year of Programs for Millennials and More which can be purchased here: ALA Store. The book offers program ideas targeting the millennial generation as well as discussing programming on a tight budget and tips for marketing and outreach. However, before we even begin to discuss programming, we need to understand this wide demographic.

Defining Millennials
Who are Millennials? In an article by Evan Hackel titled Let’s Take the Mystery Out of Training Millennials, he states, “The Millennial generation (also called Generation Y) includes people born between 1980 and 1998.” In their session, Ms. LaMantia and Ms. Vinci stated that Millennials are broadly defined as reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. This wide range of adults covering ages 18-35+ forms a problem for many librarians who want to create fun and lively programs for this group. You will have to consider that life experiences vary greatly in this group as some are just graduating high school or college, some are beginning new careers, others are getting married, and some are having children and starting families.

Before you begin to worry, we need to discuss what we do know about this demographic. Millennials are comfortable with technology. They are online and know how to search for their interests. Many of them tend to be very busy, but they still want to participate in activities that involve social interaction. This is where libraries come in!

Consider Program Times and Marketing Efforts
Ms. LaMantia and Ms. Vinci discuss that work, family, and friends take precedence for millennials. They suggest trying after-hours programming such as a Saturday evening. It may take some experimenting to find a time that works for your community. Ask for feedback from your patrons and assess your population. Does it make sense to have an agricultural program in your urban community? Probably not. Learn who you are serving before you start your planning process.

So once you’ve figured out who, specifically, is visiting your library and/or lives in your community, it’s time to go where the millennials are. Do not wait for them to come to you; you may be waiting a long time! Hang flyers in local bars, restaurants, beer distributors, places where millennials will actually see them.

Meet them on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, MeetUp, Goodreads, and Instagram. If this is where millennials are spending most of their time, don’t we want to be present there? And remember that just because you posted something on Facebook doesn’t mean it was successful. You need to be active. Post consistently and often. Pay the $5 to boost your post on Facebook and target the millennial age group in your region. It’s money well-spent!

Programming for Millennials
As a millennial myself, I know there is a widespread love for ‘90s programming. We tend to be nostalgic! Consider the following activities as suggested by Ms. LaMantia and Ms. Vinci that include the nostalgia factor and other relevant topics for millennials:

Halloween Throw-back

Halloween Throw-back  (Photo courtesy of Katie LaMantia and Emily Vinci)

  1. ‘90s Halloween Throwback:
    a.  Pumpkin painting
    b.  DIY dirt cups
    c.  Goosebumps movie
    d.  Fruit Roll-Ups, Gushers, Fruit-by-the-Foot
    e.  ‘90s Trick or Treating candy assortment
  1. Preschool for Adults:
    a.  Finger painting
    b. Shrinkydinks
    c.  Play-Doh
    d.  LEGO sets
    e.  Coloring books
    f.  Spirographs
    g.  Juice boxes, animal crackers, pudding cups
  1. Power Rangers movie (release date: March 24, 2017)
    a.  Play episodes or movies during the weeks leading up to the release
    b. Plan a group trip to the movies
  1. Money Smart Week (April)
    a. First-time renter
    b. First-time homebuyer, mortgages
    c.  First career – 401Ks, IRAs, and deciphering financial information.
  1. Fitness Fair & Self Defense Class
    a.  Partner with local fitness centers
    b.  New Year’s Resolution for healthy living and exercise
  1. UnValentine’s Day
    a.  Cookie decorating
    b. Piñata smashing
    c.  Show a movie: My Bloody Valentine, The Break-Up, Fatal Attraction, etc.
Spirited Art

Finished products after Spirited Art at Valley Community Library

More Programming
Other programming ideas I’ve found through some quick searches on the Internet include a Broke Holidays Program. Kelsey Cole-Burns, a Youth Services Librarian in Northern Illinois, writes about her library’s Broke Holidays Program which provided a “fun, crafting, sociable experience for those jostling for an inexpensive gift.” They chose three crafts that were simple, low-cost, and that they already had supplies from past programs: Scrabble tile coasters, 8-bit ornaments, and polka dot mugs.

Karissa Alcox, Children’s and Teen Librarian in Ontario, Canada, facilitated a program for tweens and teens called Bad Art Night that could easily be adjusted to fit millennials. Simply put out an eclectic mix of crafting materials, give the group a set time, and have them create any piece of art they’d like as long as it’s really bad. Everyone then votes for their favorite piece of Bad Art and the winner gets the Bad Trophy which of course is equally bad. Here is the PDF outline.

A coworker of mine at Valley Community Library in Peckville, PA, Kristen Wallo, recently initiated a Wine and Canvas Night. The event which was also a fundraiser had a limited number of spots and was filled to capacity! Ms. Wallo partnered with Spirited Art, a local painting class led by professionals who take participants step by step through the process. The event was held after-hours on a Saturday evening and patrons were able to bring their own food and alcoholic beverages. Although the event consisted of all different age groups, it could easily be targeted to just millennials.

Trivia Night

Trivia Night

Off-site Programming
Not all library programming has to take place at the library! Get out into the community and go where millennials like to hang out. Look for new businesses and attractions in your local area.

  1. Trivia Nights
  2. Partner with local restaurant and/or bar
  3. Create trivia answer sheets
  4. Write questions: use a trivia board game or an online generator.