Books and looks: gen Z is ‘rediscovering’ the public library

Young people are using libraries at higher rates than older generations, and they're finding more than just books.


Gen Z Embraces Libraries as Social Spaces

Young people like Henry Earls are dressing up and going to public libraries to cultivate an aesthetic and meet new people. Libraries are no longer just quiet spaces for reading; they have become community hubs where gen Z can connect and build relationships.

The American Library Association (ALA) found that gen Z and millennials are using libraries at higher rates than older generations. Even those who don't identify as readers visit their local library to hang out, study, and enjoy the social atmosphere. Libraries provide spaces for activities like gaming and music-making, catering to gen Z's need for both solitude and community.

Social media platforms like TikTok further highlight the appeal of libraries to gen Z. Users like Henry Earls and Marwa Medjahed share content showing themselves studying or reading in front of beautiful library backdrops. Libraries offer an authentic and aesthetic experience that resonates with gen Z's desire for something real in their digital age.

The Allure of Physical Books and Unique Experiences

Despite the prevalence of digital reading, gen Z still fetishizes physical books. Book-related content on platforms like TikTok, known as #booktok, resonates with young literary enthusiasts who enjoy the visual appeal of printed books. Libraries provide access to these coveted books without the need to purchase them.

Moreover, libraries offer unique experiences that go beyond just reading. Tom Worcester, co-founder of Reading Rhythms, organizes 'reading parties' at bars where attendees can enjoy their books while listening to ambient tracks and socializing. Libraries present a similar opportunity for social outings and allow gen Z to have a focused and productive environment for studying or reflecting.

While gen Z faces a lack of traditional 'third places' for socialization, libraries remain an open and inclusive space that asks nothing in return. They offer a refuge where gen Z can truly come as they are, free from judgment.

Challenges and the Need for Advocacy

Despite gen Z's love for libraries, these institutions and their workers are facing challenges and attacks. Budget cuts, restrictions on materials, and threats to librarians' jobs are common issues. However, gen Z's support for libraries comes at a crucial time when advocacy is needed.

It's essential for gen Z to continue advocating for libraries and opposing attempts to limit access to information. Libraries serve as vital community resources and deserve support from all generations. The love for libraries among young people can help revitalize and protect these institutions for future generations to enjoy.