When you think of a reader, what kind of person do you picture? Are they young or old, studying or reading for fun? It turns out that readers span all generations and they read for different reasons at different stages of their lives.
A recent study by Library Journal looked at reading and library use habits across ages 16-91. The study covered five age groups: Generation Z (ages 16-22), Millennials (ages 23-38), Generation X (ages 39-54), Baby Boomers (ages 55-73) and the Silent Generation (ages 74-91). Although Generation Z is typically defined as including people age 5-22, only ages 16-22 were included for this survey.
The study asked participants to identify with statements that described their relationship to reading, what kind of formats they read and preferred, what motivated them to use their public library and how often they used their public library.
The Silent Generation was the most likely to identify with the statement, "I am an avid reader," however, this was a common response across all age groups. Those identifying themselves as an avid reader were 58% of the Silent Generation, 56% of Baby Boomers, 51% of Generation X, 48% of Millennials, and 36% of Generation Z.
The Silent Generation, composed of many retirees with more time to read, read an average of 25 books for pleasure in the last year, while Generation Z read eight books for pleasure last year. Generation Z was the most likely to identify with the statement, "I read a lot for work or school but rarely read for pleasure." All age groups identified most strongly with the phrase, "I am always on the lookout for good books to read." So, whether people are reading for pleasure, for school or for work, all generations were interested in reading and finding more good books to read.
Print books, both hard-cover and paperback, were the most-used kind of book across all the ages, compared with e-books and audio books. More than 70% of all the respondents read hard-covers, with Generation Z being the most likely to read hard-covers. Print books were also the favorite format to read in across all ages. E-book use varied across the age groups, from 29% to 41% of readers using e-books. Of the Silent Generation, 29% read e-books, while 41% of Millennials do.
When it comes using their local library, Generation X is the most likely to have borrowed at least one book from the public library over the last year. However, the Silent Generation borrowed the most books on average, reflecting that higher percentage of avid readers. When asked why they visit the library, the generations had differing priorities. Generation Z goes most often to read or study. Millennials go most often to browse for a book. Generation X and the Silent Generation go most often for a comfortable or relaxing space. Baby Boomers go most often to look for a specific book. Across all the ages, 30% to 36% said that they go to the library to spend some "me time."
In the early 2000s, it was often predicted technology would so drastically change how we read and consume information that printed books and libraries would soon be a thing of the past. We can see from this study that prediction has not become true. People of all ages still enjoy reading and the tactile pleasures of a printed book. They also still enjoy visiting their local libraries to find new books and enjoy the comfortable space. We certainly see that here at the Norfolk Public Library, where a variety of people from all age groups continue to enjoy checking out books in all formats and visiting their library.