Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Going to the Library Can Make You Very Happy

OK, this is not just Keira being her usual rah-rah-rah BOOOOKKSS!!! There's apparently a study. And there's apparently data. It's legit.

The study is called Quantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Sport and Culture organized by the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport in the UK. "DCMS commissioned researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE) to undertake analysis of Understanding Society data to develop the evidence base on the wellbeing impacts of cultural engagement and sport participation."

Two of the findings of the study are: "A significant association was also found between frequent library use and reported wellbeing. Using libraries frequently was valued at £1,359 [$2,086] per person per year for library users." In fact, going to the library comes in a close third behind dancing and swimming in terms of a valued activity.

In a series of studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, it is found that "Libraries loom large in the public imagination, and are generally viewed very positively: 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community." People feel that libraries give everyone a chance to succeed, promote literacy and a love of reading, and improve the quality of life in a community. For 75% of the people, it is important to have this quiet, safe place.

According to another Pew study, "The more people are engaged with their public library, the more they tend to feel connected to their community as a whole." Library users “are also more likely to say that they like their communities and that they would call their communities good or excellent places to live," Pew Research Associate Kathryn Zickuhr told TIME.

To us diehard readers and library users, libraries are priceless. A free library system is one of the central pillars of civilization.

That is why every year, we donate money to our library system. Some years, we earmark it for books, interlibrary loans, programs for young readers, book readings, and sometimes, we donate without instructions. We buy an annual Friends of the Library membership and buy books from their annual book sale. We also donate gently-used books.

Ever since I was young, I've visited libraries. I started my kids out at six months of age. I delight in looking back on our checkout histories. Just entering a library is like entering a church: the hushed atmosphere, the special fragrance, the joy the view brings (books as far as the eye can see), and the peace and contentment that seeps into my bones. The older the library, the more heightened the impact on my wellbeing.

Edited 11/6/15: The fabulous Ursula Le Guin on the importance of libraries. Marvelously put!