Do zoomers and millennials go to libraries and read books?

For the digital natives of Generation Z and many tech-savvy millennials, reading books and using social media are not mutually exclusive, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Portland State University found that despite the ubiquitous use of social media, 54% of these two demographic groups had visited local libraries in the past twelve months.

Writing for The Conversation, the study’s authors marveled at the “unlikely love affair” these young Americans have with libraries. Their research, conducted in collaboration with the American Library Association, was published in November.

Not all the news is good. Not everyone who visits a library is a reader.

Nearly a quarter of people who visited a library in the 12-month period do not consider themselves readers, and more broadly, 43% of Gen Z and millennials do not consider themselves readers.

Yet almost 54% of those non-readers went to libraries. These findings suggest a broader role that libraries continue to play in communities, providing a meeting place not only for book lovers, but also for people with other interests.

Do people still go to libraries?

In addition to books, movies and music, libraries provide people with a place to gather, whether it’s playing video games, working, doing homework or attending meetings.

According to the study, authored by Kathi Inman Berens and Rachel Noorda, professors of book publishing at Portland State University, “the library offers a number of things besides books: a safe, free place to hang out; important resources and advice during major life changes, such as career transition, parenthood, new language acquisition, or learning to read; Workplaces with Wi-Fi; and creativity tools such as maker spaces and media production equipment.”

Amid the loneliness epidemic, a teen mental health crisis and an ongoing battle over book bans, libraries remain important “third spaces” in communities that provide a place to connect at no cost, the authors said. The interest in local libraries offers hope, as 92% of teens use social media daily and 25% check social media several times an hour, the same study found.

The researchers described their conversations with visitors to library branches in Portland, who reported that the public library offered a relaxing environment and that chatting was allowed during activities.

Does Gen Z buy physical books?

Many members of Gen Z and millennials, who are now between the ages of 28 and 43, still enjoy reading, and when it comes to their reading format, they prefer print books to ebooks and audiobooks, according to the research. And when choosing print books, 59% of Gen Z and Millennials would opt for a graphic/manga version of a story, as opposed to a book without images. (That preference is greater in Black and LatinX communities, according to the study.) Overall, Gen Zers read more than Millennials, the study said, and the younger Gen Zers are, the more physical books they to buy.

Libraries are also places where you can discover books, the study said. A 2020 report from Noorda and Berens found that one in three book buyers encountered the book they purchased for the first time in a library.

In terms of visits to libraries, Gen Z had slightly more than Millennials in the 12-month survey period. This finding is in line with Generation Z’s preference for printed books. According to the American Booksellers Association, there has also been a growth in independent bookstores over the past two years. The Portland State University study found that in a 12-month period, 58% of Americans aged 13 to 40 bought a book from a bookstore.

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