But first what is Generation Z [Gen Z]?
Gen Z is defined to be those people with birth years roughly between 1995 to 2010. Gen Z comprise of those who grew up connected to technology, practically from the moment they became toddlers. As a generation that grew up with high-speed internet and the openness to personal information sharing on social media, it should come as no surprise that Gen Z is well-known for being ever-connected online to their peers and social communities.
What does this mean for libraries?
Gen Z have been born and raised in a world where the presence of technology and the internet is the norm. It’s the generation with the highest number of technological devices around them. It’s been a few years now that undergraduate Gen Zers have been passing through further education establishments, so libraries will have experienced behaviours that require libraries and librarians to adapt services and programs to the needs and expectations of this new audience. We have listed some examples below.
Gen Z are wedded to their mobiles. Mobile technology provides the most flexible, fastest and easiest way to communicate access and share information by anyone from anywhere and anytime. Many libraries are adopting new ways of providing mobile interfaces and their applications to be effective in terms of delivery of service to their Gen Z and other customers, for example:
- SMS notifications. Users can get notifications of new book arrivals, overdue announcements, loan requests.
- Optimized library websites for easy mobile browsing
- E-book access, providing electronic access through their mobile devices.
Library professionals are already widely using social media to interact with their users. They are using social media to share events and pictures, educate people about services, highlight their collections, and support other libraries.
Unsurprisingly Gen Zers are the most active on social media. 62% of Gen Zers use Instagram every day. Libraries and Library staff must be on the same platforms that their Gen Z audience are using to keep that specific audience abreast of what’s going on, and to retain their membership. Gen Zers are a fickle bunch also, moving to the newest and latest platform on a whim. Instagram, TikTok and YouTube seem to be the platforms of choice now
Growth in Digital Content
Searching and browsing digital information and interactive multimedia are second nature for Generation Z. It’s totally expected that information will be digital via the internet, in fact elder generations one day may have to teach them how to browse a journal or look up something in a book. Libraries are transforming their physical spaces [see below] but as a priority they need to offer digitized assets and well-organized access to networked resources, or they will lose their patrons.
The future library will have three main characteristics, which can be summarized as digital, virtual and distributed.
- It mainly will be based on digital information resources. This is due to the inevitable move from print to digital publishing.
- The digital library will be mostly virtual – it will be available on the user’s desktop and mobile devices through the network infrastructure.
- Finally, the digital, virtual library will be distributed: no single library can offer a full range of services catering for all the information needs of its users, instead we shall see library partnerships offering co-operative services.
Space & Environment
Many libraries are reimagining themselves as community meeting places alongside study/reading areas, there seems to be a greater focus on offering specialized spaces like meeting rooms, studios, makerspace areas, etc.
A study conducted at Lancaster University in the UK investigated how students use the library. The findings found that this traditionally somber study area has changed for a new generation of students. Increasingly, the library was for socializing and relaxing – a blended space. The researchers found three main trends:
- Nesting: students fill their study space with personal items and home comforts. Moreover, they like to return to the same spot. Staff have dubbed them dens.
- Blending: study time is spent doing more than one activity and moving between them fairly frequently. Students read, use their phones and laptops, eat and chat.
- Alone together: perhaps underlying these two trends is the third – most students see the library as a place to work alone, together.
Gen Zers who visit a physical library will need; a cozy library space to reflect their lifestyle, which is often flicking between activities rapidly, a familiar space to work alone, but near to their friends so that when they want to, they can socialize and come together to eat or share stories/pictures on their mobiles.
Some people have been dismissive of libraries, viewing them as a dying breed. While our society is certainly changing in the way we consume information, libraries are dynamic and ever-changing. They are evolving with the times. For now, they continue to be a mainstay for Generation Z.
Libero continuously innovates and improves its Library Management System with an eye on the future, ensuring that libraries remain relevant and meet the needs of an ever-evolving society. Interested in how Knosys’ Libero can support ever changing libraries?