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Presented at LibraryCamp Birmingham 2012, the conclusion from which I think being that while libraries have measured social value in the past, with the introduction by the 2010 Conservative government of the well-being policy this approach may find itself taking on a new significance.

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  1. 1. The Economics ofHappiness andLibrariesGareth OslerLibraryCamp 2012 (Birmingham)email: osler.gareth@gmail.comtwitter: @LibraryWeb
  2. 2. Presentation Overview● The Wests concept of happiness● The sequence of events leading up to thecurrent governments announcement of thedevelopment of a happiness index● The Economics of Happiness and Libraries● Implications of this recent development ingovernment policy for libraries?● Adendum and epilogue
  3. 3. The Wests concept of happiness○ From Aristotle to the Science of Happiness (2slides)○ What is this thing called happiness? (2 slides)
  4. 4. From Aristotle to the Science ofHappinessAristotle (384BC–322BC) Nichomachian Ethics, Book I(1095a):"Happiness, therefore, being found to be somethingfinal and self-sufficient, is the end at which allactions aim"AllExperts, Expert: Maria, 2/15/2010, 11 Oct 2012)
  5. 5. From Aristotle to the Science ofHappinessDaniel Nettle (2006), Happiness: The Science BehindYour Smile:"The fear programme, which we evolved as huntergatherers is designed to get us away from things thatare likely to harm us. If we had to make an analogousclaim about the purpose of the happiness system, wewould be most likely to say that it is there to keep usmoving towards things that are likely to be good for usin some appropriate biological sense--mating, goodfood, pleasant environment--and away from things thatare bad for us."
  6. 6. What is this thing calledhappiness?From Desmond Morriss classification of happiness(The nature of Happiness, 2006) in which he alsosuggests evolutionary (and otherwise) reasons as towhy possibly we enjoy the things we do: curiosity andexploration, challenging work, achievement; winning;being helpful, cooperation; love, bonding, birth,child rearing; sensual pleasures - a delicious meal,of the flesh (hedonism); exercising the brain - games,puzzles; rhythmic activities - dancing, singing,athletics, military marching; masochism; risk taking;excitement (through to hysteria); tranquility,meditation (leading to a more sustainable form ofhappiness); devotion (belief); medication for painrelief, restructuring life for the better; drugs;reading, day-dreaming.
  7. 7. What is this thing calledhappiness?Theoretical viewpoints include:● sensory hedonism● Kahnemans theory● local preferentism● Whole Life SatisfactionWikipedia: Happiness is a mental or emotional state ofwell-being characterized by positive or pleasantemotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.(Retrieved 11 Oct 2012)(PIPs, Lpool 8 Oct 2012)
  8. 8. The sequence of events leading up to thecurrent governments announcement of thedevelopment of a happiness index○ Background to the current ONS well-being measure(6 slides)○ First ONS Annual Experimental Subjective Well-being Results (2 slides)
  9. 9. Background to the current ONSwell-being measureDuring the late 1990s:● Economists were finding evidence that a doubled GDPin 30 years hadnt made people in developedcountries any happier (there had to be a betterway).● Research was also showing that incomes, afterreaching a certain point (about £10,128.89) resultsin an inverse relationship between more money andhappiness.● Happiness became a new science.
  10. 10. Background to the current ONSwell-being measure2002, Tony Blairs governmentDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(Defra) set to work on a happiness index, abandonedafter proved too difficult to pin down.2003 analytical paper – Life Satisfaction – callingfor politics to focus on the things of most value,produced by head of New Labours strategy unit DavidHalpern (considered how happiness might affectdifferent policies).
  11. 11. Background to the current ONSwell-being measure2008, collapse of Lehman BrothersFrench president Nicolas Sarkozy launches an inquiryinto happiness ... how the relentless search for a risein GDP sometimes trampled over a governments othergoals, such as sustainability and work-life balance
  12. 12. Background to the current ONSwell-being measure2009, still New LabourThe Office for National Statistics (ONS) declares thatone of its priorities was a statistical instrument formeasuring ‘national wellbeing and progress (citing a"growing international recognition ... [of] a need todevelop a more comprehensive view, rather than focusingsolely on GDP").Richard Layard (Labour peer since 2000, a key influenceon both the Blair and Brown governments in taking upthis agenda), and colleagues are contracted by ONS towork on the project.
  13. 13. Background to the current ONSwell-being measure2010, Lib-Con coalitionGovernment asks ONS to create a ‘happiness index’ thatcan measure the country’s state of wellbeing:"measures based on what people tell us matters most""intended to complement other measures of the state ofthe UK such as GDP"
  14. 14. Released 24 July 2012, dataset drawn from foursubjective well-being questions included in theIntegrated Household Survey (IHS) Apr 2011 - Mar 2012:● Overall, how satisfied are you with your lifenowadays?● Overall, to what extent do you feel the things youdo in your life are worthwhile?● Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?● Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?First ONS Annual ExperimentalSubjective Well-being Results
  15. 15. References:First ONS Annual Experimental Subjective Well-beingResults, Released: 24 July 2012 11 Oct 2012)ONS well-being report reveals UKs happiness ratings,24 July 2012 11 Oct 2012)First ONS Annual ExperimentalSubjective Well-being Results
  16. 16. The Economics of Happiness and Libraries○ The Economics of Happiness and Libraries (1slide)○ Current status of the well-being policy withingovernment (2 slides)
  17. 17. "the gift that you give the artist and that the artistgives you"- Boing Boing, 17 November, 2006, Zadie Smith on thepractice of reading (retrieved 5Nov 2012)."People wish also in the main, to give their fellowsand themselves the opportunity for self-improvement …human sympathy … the universal desire for an increaseof human happiness by an increase of knowledge ofconditions of human happiness"- Library Daylight – Tracings of Modern Librarianship,1874-1922, Edited Rory Litwin.The Economics of Happiness andLibraries
  18. 18. Sir Gus and the well-being revolutionJuliet Michaelson, new economics foundation, 26 July2011 for National Statistics, Measuuring whatmatters/ National Well-being (retrieved 24 May 2012)Current status of the well-beingpolicy within government
  19. 19. Office for National Statistics, Measuring NationalWell-being - Life in the UK 2012 - Published 20November 2012 20 Nov 2012; replaces the previous SocialTrends study, and provides the main source of well-being research results)Welsh Libraries Launch “First Incomplete Field Guide toWellbeing in Libraries” (retrieved 24 May 2013)Current status of the well-beingpolicy within government
  20. 20. Implications of this recent development ingovernment policy for libraries?○ Implications for public libraries? (2 slides)
  21. 21. Implications for public libraries?● Research that could lead to a more realistic approach tovaluing public libraries than issues and footfall?● Public libraries have always had difficulty justifyingthemselves in terms of GDP (although BL does make anattempt) - a political change then to be encouraged bythe libraries?● David Cameron is trying to get the concept up and runningeven in the midst of public service cuts and soaringliving costs - should local councils take the leadlikewise?● The ONS questions were formulated by asking people whatmatters - it would be interesting to look at the processby which the index was drawn up in more detail (giving aninsight perhaps into what matters most for people at themoment).
  22. 22. Implications for public libraries?● Is David Lankes lecture as featured in CILIP News Round-Up: October 2012 now relevant more than ever: Fromcollections to community – a vision of new librarianship● Frontline staff can feel happier about adding somehappiness to peoples lives :)● A new importance for community libraries?● Exactly what contribution can community libraries make tothe wellbeing of a community?● Etc.
  23. 23. Additional bibliography, further reading, glossary:1) presentation online:1)
  24. 24. Comments from discussion following the presentation:- ONS survey questions prompted discussion re. experience ofnew students using univ. library facilities.- Importance of being able to provide a non-judgemental non-competitive environment in the library (e.g., public seekinginformation on serious medical conditions).- HI as a policy beneficial to library culture.- Reference to MLA General Learning and General SocialOutcomes. (The point I think being that social value is byno means a new subject within the field of libraries, howeverperhaps with a new relevance.)Adendum
  25. 25. By way of a conclusion to the presentation.A library is of value in every context of our lives as asociety. A person may use a library only once in a while (oreven only at certain points in their lives), but find thelibrary of considerable value to them when they do. It iseven conceivable that a person who does not use a libraryservice at all still values for example that Thomas Jeffersonvalued libraries so highly. (By definition only a few peoplemay achieve above average, however those people often willmention the role of libraries in their achievements.)Issues and footfall alone do not reflect that libraries canstill add considerably to the feeling of well-being of aperson and even without that person being a regular userthemselves (often a member even if not a user at all). Theyvalue libraries being there for when they are needed, andalso that others value the libraries and often very highly.Epilogue
  26. 26. (Cont.)Libraries constitute an economic activity [ref. glossary], ofvalue directly to the well-being of individuals, but also aninstrumental value to the wider economy (the purpose ofitself likewise being the well-being of our society).Libraries are important to our feeling of well-being.A happiness index would be a truer measure of the value ofour libraries than the counts of issues and footfall that arecurrently relied upon.Gareth Osler (24/05/2013)Epilogue
  27. 27. (Cont.)"It is important that we feel happy within ourselves, becausewhen we are feeling happy about ourselves then we know thatour values are falling into place." (Citation long since lostin the mists and fogs of time.)Epilogue
  28. 28. Change log:16 Oct 2012- Desmond Morris slide, note to the effect that Morris talksabout factors that affect happiness as well as possibleevolutionary aspects.7 Nov 2012- The Economics of Happiness and Libraries added.20 Nov 2012- Slide added, current status of policy within gov.- Note on discussion page re. social value not being a newsubject within the field of libraries, however perhaps with anew relevance.Adendum
  29. 29. (Cont.)22 Jan 2013- Link to The Happiness Project (further reading).- Tweaked def. happiness (gloss., feelings of, ref.Wikipedia def.).- Title slide (still not entirely sure how library campsshould correctly be titled!).- Added epilogue slides.01 Feb 2013- Added subjective well-being as a definition of happiness(glossary).- Conclusion (epilogue).Adendum
  30. 30. (Cont.)24 May 2013- Link to Measuring National Well-being - Life in the UK2012 ONS) (slide, Current status of the well-beingpolicy within government).- Link to Welsh Libraries Launch “First Incomplete FieldGuide to Wellbeing in Libraries” (slide, Current statusof the well-being policy within government).- Tweaked conclusion (Epilogue).- Link to Sir Gus and the well-being revolution fixed(slide, Current status of the well-being policy withingovernment).Adendum