Jonathan Kapilian, of Long Beach, at the Long Beach Main...

Jonathan Kapilian, of Long Beach, at the Long Beach Main Library, Thursday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

On a typical weekday afternoon, Skyla Welsch can be found in her favorite spot in the Montauk Library — the back right corner next to the window on the second floor.

An art education graduate student, the 25-year-old Montauk resident frequents the library two to four times a week, staying for about six hours at a time to complete school work or just create graphic designs for fun.

“I have a desk at home and everything so I could do my work there, but it's good to get out of the house,” said Welsch, who lives only five minutes away. “It just feels like it's way more motivating to be in, like, an environment with no distractions, and I find it peaceful.”

Welsch is one of many Gen Zers and millennials who are frequenting libraries in higher numbers, according to a recent report published by the American Library Association. About half of Americans ages 13-40 visit libraries in person, and that number has been consistent in recent years, the study says.

   WHAT TO KNOW

  • More people from the Gen Z and millennial generations are coming into libraries, according to a study by a national library association.
  • That trend is also true at Long Island libraries, which are seeing an influx of younger patrons.
  • Libraries are offering more services to attract young readers, and younger patrons are using them to work, study and connect with others.

The study found that 54% of Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, and millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, visited a library within the prior 12 months from the report’s publication date of Nov. 1. This percentage is “very close” to what a 2017 study done by the Pew Research Center found and is higher than Pew’s findings a decade ago, the association said.

The study said 27% of Gen Zers and millennials report “discovering books by browsing books on shelves at public libraries.” Browsing at public libraries is “Gen Z’s No. 3 preferred place to discover books” and “Libraries are the No. 5 preferred place” for millennials to “discover books.”
The study also found that 23% of Gen Zers and millennials who did not identify as readers had visited a physical library in a 12-month period. 

Younger patrons are using libraries not only as a reading resource but as a quiet place to work, study, take classes and use services such as audio recording rooms to make videos and podcasts. The libraries, meanwhile, are finding ways to connect to younger generations by using their spaces for more than just books and reading.

Montauk Library, as well as other libraries, has built programming around the two generations due to the growing influx. The Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton features a Brunch Book Club, marketed for “20 somethings and 30 somethings,” where about 10 members dine at a local restaurant to discuss a book.

“I know from personal experience what I would want for libraries to bring me in,” said Melissa Sutter, 29, an adult services librarian who created the book club and identifies as a millennial.

“We want them to come in, want to see them. All libraries are very receptive to feedback,” Lindenhurst Memorial Library Assistant Director Caitlin Sempowich said of younger patrons. “If there’s a need in the community or something you want to learn, the library is the place to do it.”

High schoolers are frequenting libraries more as well.

It gives them a space to learn how to navigate in a safe environment so that when they're out in a bigger world, they can understand what their personal comfort level and boundaries are.

—Katie Vermilyea, youth services librarian trainee at Floral Park Public Library

Katie Vermilyea, 37, a youth services librarian trainee at Floral Park Public Library, said she will watch “kids waiting at the door” when she opens its Teen Space on a Sunday afternoon. The space is for more than reading books — it's a “third place” that's not home, work or school, where nothing is expected from them financially. Above all else, it's just a place to be.

“I delight when they're talking to each other,” Vermilyea said.

The pandemic, she said, caused loss in emotional development and learning for many students. In this teen-only space, Gen Zers have a chance to get those back.

“It gives them a space to learn how to navigate in a safe environment so that when they're out in a bigger world, they can understand what their personal comfort level and boundaries are,” she said.

Other libraries also are offering different resources, in part to appeal to younger readers. Keith Klang, director of the Port Washington Library, said its audio recording room for podcasts and videos has been a hit among younger generations.

Lisa Zuena, a communications and marketing specialist with the Nassau Library System, said the concept of teen spaces is still fairly new, originating in libraries in the '90s and early 2000s.

“More and more libraries started to really see the value in teen services,” Zuena said. “I think for a long time, pre-1990s, I think it was a lot of children's rooms. Maybe they catered to some younger teens, but then they just didn't really have a place, so we kind of lost them.”

Vermilyea first noticed an increase of Gen Z and high school-aged participants in October 2023, when she and another librarian rebranded its programming to cater to teens. The space had opened right before the pandemic.

Within a three-month period, its teen Instagram page following increased by 700%, with an additional 2,000 circulations since January.

Event attendance also spiked when the library began partnering with Floral Park Memorial High School’s library to coordinate events and flyers.

Long Island libraries also made efforts to welcome more patrons of all ages. Both the Nassau and Suffolk library systems held library tours last summer, where all were encouraged to visit as many local libraries as possible.

Zuena said in its first tour in 2019, Nassau libraries logged 22,100 visits. In 2023, that number almost tripled, counting 62,700 visitors. Suffolk, which held its first tour in 2023, logged 37,000 visits, according to its website.

She also said while many families participated in the tour, a significant number amount of single Gen Zers and millennials also took part in the fun.

Friends Katie Tam, 24, of Huntington, and Jonathan Kapilian, 25, of Long Beach, visited the libraries together as a way to hang out and learn more about different Nassau towns.

Kapilian, a student at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University, said he regularly attends his home library to study and felt the tour was a great way to see other towns he had never visited. 

“I love my public library. I really prefer it than studying and at a college library. The energy is different,” he said. “It's a great place.”

Trump back in court … Latest on state budget … 'Project Prom' Credit: Newsday

Suspect in cop killing in court ... Fighting voter fraud ... Suffolk DPW worker lawsuit ... WNBA draft

Trump back in court … Latest on state budget … 'Project Prom' Credit: Newsday

Suspect in cop killing in court ... Fighting voter fraud ... Suffolk DPW worker lawsuit ... WNBA draft

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME