Gen Z and millennials are using public library resources, both in person or online, at a higher rate than previous generations, indicates a new report conducted by the American Library Association. Over half of respondents visited a library in the past year and said they have borrowed from a library’s digital collection. They also noted a preference for print copies of books.
“Great news: younger generations of people are reading books, buying books, and visiting libraries,” Dr. Rachel Noorda, one of the report’s co-authors, said. “Not only are Gen Z and Millennials engaging with books, but they are also engaging with other forms of media. They are gamers, readers, writers, and fans who are comfortable with malleability between media categories and forms.”
Over 43 percent of Gen Z and Millennials have gone to a library this past year for reasons other than books.
ALA President Emily Drabinski notes that these spaces present opportunities for learning beyond borrowing books.
“These digitally-immersed generations make clear that libraries are about more than books,” she said. “Programming relevant to teens and their parents – coding clubs, job application help, gaming – draws even non-readers to the library, as does the physical space to connect and collaborate.”
Libraries can be spaces for studying, working and conducting research using digital or print materials such as video and magazines. They often host community-focused events, talks and opportunities for education.
New York’s Brooklyn Public Library is an example of that. The space recently hosted “The Book of HOV” exhibit, which paid homage to JAY-Z’s life and career. The event was so successful it led to an increase in library card sign-ups.
“Libraries are popular among Gen Z and Millennials, even among self-identified non-readers. Gen Z and Millennials want and need the resources public libraries offer,” Dr. Kathi Inman Berens, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “Just as they flit between multiple media formats, they also jump between modes of access: libraries to bookstores to influencer posts to subscriptions, and back again. Libraries are a notable way Gen Z and Millennials discover books.”
The study echoes the ongoing popularity for fiction novels on social media, via the #booktok hashtag for instance. Bookstores have been featuring sections dedicated to the tag and Gen Z has been sharing reading recommendations online – from romance novels to dark academia and self-help books. The hashtag was viewed over 194 billion times so far.