Libraries Are a Popular Social Hub Among Gen Z, Millennials

Most youngsters in libraries aren’t even there to read.

03.11.24
Libraries Are a Popular Social Hub Among Gen Z, Millennials (Getty Images)

California; HaywardWhen one goes to the library, it’s typical to see books being checked out and read. Nowadays, younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials are frequenting libraries to simply hang out.

A recent study conducted by researchers from Portland State University revealed that contrary to the assumption that digital natives of Gen Z and tech-savvy millennials prioritize social media over traditional reading, 54% of these demographics had visited local libraries within the past 12 months. The study, conducted in collaboration with the American Library Association, emphasized the unexpected affinity young Americans have developed for libraries, based on a Deseret News story.

Despite the positive trend, not all aspects are encouraging. Approximately 25% of library visitors during the studied period did not identify as readers, and a broader analysis indicated that 43% of Gen Z and Millennials do not consider themselves readers. Nevertheless, the fact that 54% of non-readers were still engaging with libraries suggests a multifaceted role beyond catering exclusively to book enthusiasts.

The study, by Portland State University Associate Professors Kathi Inman Berens and Rachel Noorda, highlighted that libraries provide more than just books. They serve as free, safe spaces for various activities, including playing video games, working, doing homework, and attending meetings. The researchers stressed the importance of libraries as "third spaces" in communities, offering social connection amid challenges like the loneliness epidemic and teen mental health crises.

In an era dominated by social media use, the researchers found that libraries continue to be relevant, with 92% of teenagers using social media daily. Conversations with library visitors in Portland revealed that the public library offers a relaxed environment, permitting social interaction during activities.

While many Gen Z and Millennials still enjoy reading, the study discovered a preference for print books over e-books and audiobooks. Moreover, when opting for print books, 59% of these demographics favored graphic/manga versions, particularly prevalent in Black and Latino communities. The research also indicated that Gen Z read more than Millennials, and the younger Gen Z demonstrated a higher inclination to purchase physical books.

According to the study, libraries serve as vital spaces for discovering books, with one in three book buyers encountering their purchased book first at a library. The study also noted a rise in independent bookstores, with 58% of Americans aged 13 to 40 purchasing a book in a bookstore within the 12-month research window.

Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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