After posting the last entry I got an email from Paula Coventy of Naracoorte Library drawing my attention to a study done by Flinders University School of Medicine. It is called Effect of the Mount Gambier Public Library on community health.
The article is found here. It is a "poster" - i.e. a very short summary of some quite detailed scientific research done on the impact of the library on the biological, psychological and social health of library users. The short paper reports that 56.9% and 50.4% of respondents reported that the library had improved their social and psychological health respectively. And the researchers went on to use standard statistical analysis to determine correlations between the use of various library services and personal health. The strongest correlations are outlined in the paper.
I am delighted that this work has been done & that it has been done on a local community. We're often relying on anecdotal information when discussing the value of public libraries, but here we have an independently done, scientific study which demonstrates correlations between library use and personal health. So, if this is the case then we have some data which we can use as part of our discussions about the value of public libraries. (Of course - this study does look at one library only, and as it is a new, quite spectacular library which includes a coffee shop and other facilities, we would need to be careful in extrapolating from this study to make comments about other specific libraries or public libraries generally. But it does provide a pointer for what can be achieved when a town is provided with a high quality public library.)
And thanks for the heads up to the article Paula.