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  • Writer's pictureMatilde Pozzato

Gen Z Finds the ‘Third Place’ Within Public Libraries

At the peak of the digital age, recent trends show that Gen Z is rediscovering public libraries.

Young people attend libraries more often than older generations and not only to study, they go for the experience. 

“I make a whole day out of it,” says Giorgia (24), who is doing her Master’s in publishing and loves studying at the library. Gen Z people don’t only go to the library to study or borrow books, they see an outing to the library as a day out and put effort into enjoying the experience. 

It looks like libraries are becoming a ‘third place’ for Gen Z. The term was coined in 1989 by sociologist Ray Oldenburg to refer to a place that is not your house or your place of work where you can meet other people (strangers or not). These could be churches, bars, gyms, or, of course, public libraries.

Groningen University Library © Matilde Pozzato

“You see a lot of students studying,” says Alice (23), who enjoys going to the library to prepare for her master’s entrance exams. She takes one hour in the morning to get ready to then spend the entire day at the library. Studying can be quite an alienating activity but going to the library with friends motivates her to work hard while allowing her to share tips and discuss her work with her colleagues and, of course, take breaks together to catch up. 

Thanks to technology, there are more and more activities that we can do online, which causes us to lose our third places. For example, both church services and gym classes can be followed online. Gen Z is definitely feeling the claustrophobia of only going to school or work and then back home, especially following the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The library is the only place I feel comfortable to study in and it’s the only place where I can focus on what I have to study,” says Alice. Instead of hanging out at home alone, many young people have found a comfortable place in libraries to do their work and also meet new people between breaks.

Groningen University Library © Matilde Pozzato

The newfound passion for libraries is also a product of social media trends. Especially on TikTok, many creators post videos of their outings to the libraries, showing how they craft the perfect library experience. From the choice of the library they go to, to the outfit they carefully plan to match the aesthetic of the moment, to the drink they get on their walk there, nothing is casual.

“I study better with a bit of distraction and noise,” says Giorgia, which is one of the reasons she enjoys the library so much. For people who want to study at the library in total silence there usually are quiet rooms but otherwise a bit of movement and background noise is appreciated by attendees as it makes the place feel alive.

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