by Matthew Del Busto
Generation Z, or iGen, includes everyone born after 1996. As a Generation Z member myself, I can assert that libraries are not just good to have around—they’re essential. In an age where many people have stigmatized young people like myself as being generally lazy and not quite the bookworm type, I’d love to share some reasons why libraries are still important for me, as a college student, and for kids of any age.
Importance for “The Littles” (birth to elementary school)
It’d be wrong of me to start anywhere else than with the books. Books matter to kids, even to those who can’t read yet, since they are still absorbing information by looking at the pictures in books and hearing them read aloud. Once they do learn how to read, many kids start devouring every book in sight, and the library is the only place which will have enough books to quell their appetite.
Summer reading programs
Growing up, I loved my library’s summer reading program. I was going to be reading anyways, and now I won prizes for doing it! The library gave me a reading map, and for each half hour that I spent reading, I loved being able to check off my progress and proudly show it to the librarians. It didn’t hurt that I got to pick out prizes, either! Summer reading programs like this can show kids why reading is fun.
Many libraries are active with local authors in their community. There’s nothing cooler, as a kid, than hearing the author of your favorite book read it to you in person! Libraries provide a great space for writers to speak about and personally share their books.
Along with reading programs and author talks, many libraries are chock-full of non-reading activities, as well. My library has hosted programs varying from Lego activities to computer coding, with many programs in between. These programs become great ways to get kids excited about libraries, especially for kids who may not have started to enjoy reading yet
Education in a non-scary environment like a school
School can sometimes be overwhelming for young kids, and libraries provide an accessible alternative that children can visit with their family and friends. For kids who haven’t started school yet, a library can be their first type of educational building, and the best part is, they’ll be learning without realizing it! For those who have started school, libraries are great seas of knowledge and excitement without having the pressure of school. There’s no grade for walking around your public library and finding a few favorite books, so libraries can really be a place of freedom for your young ones.
Social interaction with kids their age
Similar to a park, a library is a great place for kids of the same age to simply come together and be. Whether your child and another kid their age are both looking through the same book, building the same tower of blocks, or comparing summer reading program prizes, libraries offer numerous opportunities for healthy social interaction.
Importance for “The Middles” (middle school)
Again, I’d be remiss to start somewhere else. Thinking of my middle school years brings me to poring through all the Harry Potter series (again and again), The Hunger Games, The Gone Series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and so many more great books. Sure, at this age, there will be plenty of kids who claim to “hate reading”—but for many more, kids will still find pleasure reads as exciting as the picture books that they read when they were younger. As always, the library will the go-to place for these great books (after finishing that math homework, of course)!
Book reports & papers
Middle school seems to be the time when book reports are at their prime. There’s no better place to go than the library for a great selection of books that can be used for book reports. Also, most libraries have plenty of information that many middle schoolers need for their first research papers, especially when it comes to beefing up their bibliography with non-Wikipedia sources. While the Internet is usually where students begin their research, never doubt a book’s power as a source. Finding a relevant book can help immensely for first-time essay writers.
As school gets more intense, parents begin to seek out tutors to assist their kids. The library is a quiet, friendly, neutral environment that’s perfectly suited for students and tutors alike.
One of the hardest parts of group projects is figuring out when and where to meet. So often, this question can be easily (and thankfully) answered by deciding to go the library right after school. Most libraries provide study spaces, like tables where students can collaborate, find the books they need, use the Internet, and maybe even get snacks at a vending machine while they perfect their group project.
Importance for “The Bigs” (high school and up)
Again, I’ve got to start here. For all my life (but most especially in high school), it is so reassuring to read about people my age who share similar struggles, fears, and dreams. Each YA book I read about a kid’s awkward moments and small victories meant a lot to me as I was going through similar experiences as a high schooler. A library with a good YA selection can become a haven for high school students.
Cramming for finals
During both the week preceding and the week of finals week, the library at my college gets packed. People are studying in every corner of the building, and it’s almost impossible to find an empty seat. As a loyal year-round library user myself, I don’t quite understand why people wait until finals week to go to the library to study, but I can attest that the library is certainly the go-to spot when people are cramming for their finals.
A quiet place to study
Sometimes, I just need to get out of the house and study somewhere quiet, and there’s no better place to do so than the library. To this day in college, the library is my absolute favorite place to study. The hushed voices around me allow the space to be quiet, but not too quiet, and I’m comforted by the fact that I’m surrounded by dozens of fellow students who are doing the same thing as me.
Other forms of media—computer programs, video equipment, cameras
Have you noticed how libraries have been building up their supply of electronic and video equipment? The library at my high school offered video cameras which we could use for projects. Now at college, our library has laptops that students can rent, and the computers at the library (besides being a million times faster than my laptop) have programs that I can use as a student, like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, which I would otherwise have to pay a pretty penny for. Libraries can provide easy, shared access to software and equipment that students might not be able to afford on their own.
I would be remiss to talk about libraries without giving credit to the people who maintain them. Librarians don’t only help older kids, for they can provide valuable assistance to elementary and middle schoolers as well. But personally, I didn’t really feel comfortable going up to adults (like librarians) to ask for help until I was in high school. Librarians, besides having an uncanny ability to immediately find the book I was looking for (even when I had checked that same shelf four times already), are great wealths of knowledge themselves and can help with school projects, research, book recommendations, and so much more. This is especially true at a school library, where librarians often work closely with teachers to provide students with specialized assistance for essays and projects.
Unfortunately, some people have been dismissive of libraries, viewing them as a dying breed. While our society is certainly changing in the way we consume information, libraries are dynamic and ever-changing, as well. Whether it’s because of their access to electronic equipment, their wealth of books, the knowledge of their librarians, or simply being a terrific space, libraries still matter to me. And now more than ever, they continue to be a mainstay for members of the iGen.
What are ways you use your library? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @TanglewoodPub!