April 28, 2014
Visit the library! It’s like getting a two-thousand dollar raise
by Claire Kelley
A study by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport has found that frequent library use is valued at about two thousand dollars (£1,359 to be exact) per person per year. In other words, library engagement is associated with higher well-being.
In each case the monetary well-being value is based on individuals’ own perceived value to themselves of engagement rather than a wider value to society. Any findings should also be considered in light of the wider social impacts in order to provide a more holistic consideration of the full non-economic impacts
In light of these findings, Lucy Mangan wrote a piece in the Guardian wondering why the government is closing so many libraries in the UK:
Faced with figures like that, especially from research it demanded and paid for its very own self, a ministerial department would have to be mad not to look again at any policy that had, since last year, resulted in an estimated 493 libraries around the country being closed, palmed off to volunteers or facing closure. It would have to be stuffed to the gills with fools, or people who are so unfeeling that they remain unmoved in the face of increasing, quantifiable human unhappiness…. Clearly neither of these things can be the case, and yet no U-turn on the municipal budget cuts that have prompted such closures has yet been forthcoming. Curious.
The study also found that people who engage with activities in the arts and in sport also have an enhanced feeling of well-being, but library visitors were the happiest. Analysis of the study makes one wonder if visiting the library makes us more happy as a result, or if people who visit libraries are just happier to begin with.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.