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University of Suffolk research reveals the significant impact Suffolk Libraries has on community wellbeing

New research conducted by the University of Suffolk has revealed further evidence of the positive impact Suffolk's libraries have on people’s wellbeing.

Suffolk Libraries, the charity that runs the county’s library service, worked in partnership with the research team from the university’s social sciences department last year with library users asked to provide feedback, set against various psychometric scales, about their library experience and how it affected their wellbeing.

Analysis of the data has revealed that regular visits to the library and engagement with library activities increase people’s feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction and their sense of community and connectedness. As a result, the University research team concluded that the results were statistically significant.

Also – with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focusing on ‘loneliness’ - the research also notably found that attendance at library activities over time decreased their feelings of loneliness.

The research also concluded that:

  • Suffolk’s libraries are an important community-based resource and provide a means for improving personal subjective wellbeing, life satisfaction, social inclusion, and community.

  • Suffolk Libraries provide neutral, non-stigmatised, non-clinical community spaces, making the public library a good place to offer social and health activities aimed at promoting and enhancing wellbeing.

  • The more people visit or engage with library activities, their feelings of social connectedness and social assurance also increase significantly.

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“Although no surprise to us, we’re delighted by these finding and especially that academic research has verified that many of our activities provide statistically significant benefit for users. This in turn helps us to form a better understanding of the positive impact the library experience has on people’s wellbeing.

"Understanding and demonstrating how we help people will allow us to expand and improve what we do in the future. People sometimes still underestimate the value of libraries, so I hope it’ll also help us and other library services to champion their importance across the country especially with statutory partners like the NHS.”

The report concluded that:

“Suffolk Libraries provides positive environments in which social and mental well-being is supported and enhanced through their facilities and activity groups. Therefore, Suffolk Libraries should continue to provide this support for those within the Suffolk community.”

The research also found that people take part in library activities for a variety of reasons. It might be because they were lonely and know they’ll find someone to talk to or because a social worker suggested the library.

Everyone seemed to recognise the library is a source of support and a trusting environment that was economically within their means and where their needs could be addressed.

Some people who responded also wanted a stimulating environment for their children as well as an opportunity to meet others in similar circumstances.

The research was based on the Suffolk Mind well-being criteria which include security, attention, status and respect, community, achievements, meaning and purpose, emotional connection, privacy and control, and feedback was analysed against statistically recognised wellbeing measures.