A new report from the American Library Association reveals the changing ways in which Millennials and Gen Z are engaging with library services in the US.
The latest report from the American Library Association found that libraries continue to play an important role in the lives of Gen Z (age 13-25) and millennials (age 26–40) – with 54% visiting a physical library within a twelve-month period.
The report also found that libraries continue to attract Gen Z and Millennials who don’t identify as readers – offering a number of valuable serviced beyond books including a safe, free place to hang out; important resources and advice during big life changes; Wi-fi enabled work spaces; and creativity resources like maker spaces and media production equipment.
The impact of technology on Gen Z and millennials reading preferences and library use was of particular focus to this report, with survey results showing that 92% of Gen Z and millennials check social media daily, with 25% report checking multiple times an hour.
Yet the report found that this increasingly online existence of this younger generation did not correlate with a straightforward preference for the digital. Print books are Gen Zers’ #1 preferred book format, and browsing bricks-and-mortar libraries and bookstores continues to be relevant to their discovery of new books.
The survey found that Gen Zers buy and read more than millennials in all formats, and that reading for Gen Z was primarily motivated by “me time” and the desire for escapism.
In terms of book discovery, Gen Z invests more trust in celebrities, influencers, and social lists, with more than a third (34%) discovering books based on recommendations from TikTokers, Instagrammers, bloggers, Discord streamers etc. By contrast, millennials read significantly more online news services (57% compared to Gen Z’s 36%) and printed newspapers (27% compared to Gen Z’s 14%). For both groups, recommendations from friends ranked the highest overall.
The report also highlighted the growing appetite for graphic novels, including manga and comics, with 59% of Gen Z and millennials reporting they would choose the graphic/manga version of a story over a text-only book.
In terms of digital library collection use, the survey found that only 37% of Gen Z and millennials borrowed from library digital collections, and that a lack of knowledge on how to access digital library collections was a barrier to regular use.
The report also examined the use of libraries by African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx users – revealing a proportionally higher use of physical libraries and digital collections, as well as a preference for graphic novels and fanfiction among other findings.
- 54% of Gen Z and millennials visited a physical library within a twelve-month period.
- Libraries attract even Gen Z and millennials who don’t identify as readers. 43% of Gen Z and millennials don’t identify as readers. Of that “non-reader” group, 54% have been to their local library in the past twelve months.
- 52% of Gen Z and millennial physical library patrons said they borrowed from library digital collections.
- 75% of Gen Z and millennial physical library patrons believe a library wait of one week or less is “long.”
- Given a choice, 59% of Gen Z and millennials would choose the graphic/manga version of a story rather than a text-only book.
- More (64%) African American or Black Gen Z and millennials visit the physical library, 10 percentage points higher than the general survey population and 47% of Black Gen Z and millennials overall (not just physical library patrons) have used digital collections, compared to 37% of the general population
Overall the report indicated that, for libraries, there is an opportunity to proactively educate younger library users about digital library resources; “meet users where they are” by engaging with digital and online platforms, and to actively demonstrate the social dimension of books for a younger generation by providing them spaces for community to meet and talk.
To find out more about the reading habits of Australian Gen Zers, visit the Teen Reading in the Digital Era project.