Ever wondered why some people just find social interactions that much easier? The answer is one for the books. No, really, that's why - a new study suggests that regular library visitors are social animals, as well as having a higher level of education and a deeper engagement with evolving technologies. Looking at more than 6,000 people aged 16 and over, the study also found that those who frequent libraries tend to be happier.
The study, from the Pew Research Center, broke respondents into four distinct groups: high engagement, medium engagement, low engagement, and non-engagement. Each of those groups was then separated into two to three subgroups to better understand the information gathering habits of each demographic. The high engagement groups - Library Lovers and Information Omnivores - were characterized by avid readers who firmly believed in the role of the traditional library in fostering a lifelong love of reading. "Members of these high engagement groups also tend to be active in other parts of their communities," the report read. "They tend to know their neighbors, they are more likely to visit museums and attend sporting events, and they are more likely to socialize with families and friends." Members of these groups were typically younger, and more likely to hold jobs or be actively searching for work.
Conversely, members of the low and non-engagement groups found social situations harder to navigate, and also struggled with technology. Said the Pew report:
Members of low and non-engagement groups are often less likely to participate in similar community activities, such as visiting museums or patronizing bookstores, and more likely to report having difficulty using technology; they also tend to be less comfortable navigating various types of information, such as finding material about government services and benefits.
The non-engagement group, comprised of people who had never used a library in their lifetime, fell in two camps: Distant Admirers and Off the Grid. Distant Admirers, which made up 10 percent of total respondents, were typically quite positive and respectful of library facilities, often because a close friend or family member frequented them. They were typically older, and from lower income brackets. Off the Grid members, just four percent of the total, were found to come largely from rural areas, and only 56 percent used the Internet. Generally, members of this group had little education and came from low-income areas, and were typically found to be less involved with their communities and social groups.
Though the research quite definitely finds a relationship between library visits and overall emotional wellbeing, the researchers were quick to point out that it doesn't prove a causal link. "It's not necessarily that people use libraries and then find they're happy," said Pew Research Associate Kathryn Zickuhr to TIME. "People who have more access to economic, social, technological resources are also more likely to use libraries as part of their networks."