For immediate release | November 1, 2023

New ALA report: Gen Z & Millennials are visiting the library & prefer print books

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gen Z and Millennials are using public libraries, both in person and digitally, at higher rates compared to older generations, according to a new report released today by the American Library Association (ALA). Gen Z and Millennials: How They Use Public Libraries and Identify Through Media Use (PDF) draws on a nationally representative survey to reveal the attitudes and behaviors young Americans have regarding library use and media consumption.

Authored by Kathi Inman Berens, Ph.D., and Rachel Noorda, Ph.D., both of Portland State University, the report and survey data show that 54 percent of Gen Z and Millennials visited a physical library within the previous 12 months. Of the 2075 Gen Z and Millennials surveyed in 2022, more than half who self-reported visiting a physical library said they also borrow from a library’s digital collection. The data also revealed younger Americans’ distinct preference for physical versions of books: survey respondents read and bought on average twice as many print books per month as any other category.

“Great news: Younger generations of people are reading books, buying books, and visiting libraries,” said Dr. Noorda. “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.”

Libraries are drawing even Gen Z and Millennials who don’t self-identify as readers. More than half of the 43 percent of Gen Z and Millennials who don’t self-identify as readers have been to their local library in the past 12 months.

"These digitally-immersed generations make clear that libraries are about more than books,” said ALA President Emily Drabinski. “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."

Library services and programs that attract non-readers are based on the specific needs of local communities and are the focus of the Public Library Association’s 2022 Public Library Services for Strong Communities Survey.

"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,” said Dr. Inman Berens. “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."

Through analysis of survey and demographic data, the authors uncovered additional key findings, including:

  • Younger library users view the library as a place to “sample” materials, supplementing and informing their purchases and paid subscriptions of books, information, and media.
  • Members of the survey cohorts who also identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color are more impacted by wait times for digital materials; more Black and Latinx Gen Z and Millennials report using digital collections than the general survey population.
  • Seventy-five percent of Gen Z and Millennial physical library patrons believe a library wait of one week or less is “long.”

The Gen Z and Millennials public libraries and media use report builds on earlier data collected by the authors in Immersive Media 2020, published by the Panorama Project, which sought to understand how today’s readers and consumers view books in relation to other forms of interactive media. Both reports are intended to serve library professionals, educators, publishers, and local governments in assessing and planning outreach and services geared toward various generational cohorts.

About the authors

Dr. Kathi Inman Berens is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar of digital culture, former Annenberg Innovation Lab fellow, prize-winning author, and Associate Professor of Book Publishing and Digital Humanities at Portland State University. She is co-editor of the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 4 and writes about commercial and non-commercial contemporary publishing.

Dr. Rachel Noorda is Director and Associate Professor of Publishing at Portland State University. Her research is primarily focused on consumer behavior, marketing, and entrepreneurship in the book industry. She regularly works with book organizations and has conducted previous research about libraries with Dr. Kathi Inman Berens in Immersive Media 2020.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government, and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library's role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit


Ian Ware

Communications Manager

Public Policy and Advocacy Office