For my research project, I have been comparing two libraries in two very different communities. My theory is that stronger community resources lead to lower crime rates. This assignment called for the use of GSS data, but unfortunately the data provided by GSS did not lend itself to test my current theories, therefore I had to look at other issues and make inferences from that data. Failing to find any questions regarding libraries specifically, I searched the terms “books” and “happy”.
I am inferring that the happier someone is, the less likely they are to commit crime. I found an interaction from the variable “SOCREL”, which measures how often people spent time with their family. Again, I am making inferences from this data, that those who are spending more time with their families are not out committing crimes. I am shifting my theory to one symbolic interactionism theory in this paper, and I think it is reasonable to say that books are themselves symbols which people in turn use to enrich their lives and find meaning when their social support is lacking.
A composite weight variable, or COMPWT was used to generate the tables. COMPWT is the product of three other variables: WTSSALL adjusted for how many adults were in the household, and OVERSAMP controls for the oversampling of blacks between the years of 1982 and 1987, and FORMWT is a variable that adjusts for problematic sampling methods and surveys between the years of 1978 to 1985.
The tables generated seem to imply that the combination of reading books and spending time with family has a significant impact on happiness.
When the respondents spent time with their families daily, and also read books, 100% of the people who responded reported being “pretty happy” when asked to respond to a scale of 1 being “very happy”, 2 being “pretty happy” and 3 being “not too happy”.
When people did not read a book, but still spent a significant amount of time with family members during the week, 58.3% of participants still responded that they were very happy. It seems that the books are not the deciding factor in happiness, as 95% of the respondents who did not read a book, but still spent time with their family members several times per week reported being either very happy or pretty happy.
When the respondents spent time with their families several times per month, 100% of people reported being very happy or pretty happy, regardless of whether or not they read books. The rate of happiness seems to fall when people see their families less frequently, and does not seem to be contingent on whether or not books are read. However, books do seem to be a mitigating factor when people are only able to see their families several times per year.
Of those who only see their family members several times per year, 100% of those who read a book were either very happy or pretty happy, but that number fell to 90.3% if those participants hadn’t read a book. The rate of happiness fell further when people only saw their family once per year, with 60% of those who read a book were very happy and only 40% were pretty happy. 11.1% of people who did not read a book and also did not see their families more than once a year reported being “not too happy”, and that number rose to 100% when they never saw their families, whether a book was read or not.
When the SOCREL was not included in the analysis, there was no difference in happiness between people who read or who don’t read books. However, when you look at the analysis of people who don’t spend time with family very often, books do have an effect on their happiness. Therefore one could infer that those who lack social support from their families are able to find support in the form of books. Outside of the books themselves, the notion of family is in and of itself its own symbol. Symbolic interactionism theory would say that humans react to the meaning certain symbols have for them. Those who value the symbolic nature of family will of course be emotionally impacted when they are unable to see their family members. The value of a book increases when that is a person’s primary source of emotional fulfillment, and at that point it becomes a more valued symbol and has a more drastic impact on that person’s life and happiness. Coming back to my original theory, one could infer that those without either social support in the form of their families, or the symbolic support that one can find in books, a person could find themselves in a state of anomie and turn to crime in order to find meaning, or in the context of gang violence, a sense of community or family.
As the library industry looks for new ways to stay relevant in an increasingly paperless world, it is important to look at these results. The books are not the deciding factor in the happiness of individuals, but they can increase happiness or provide support when one lacks social support. Therefore, in order to provide the most support to communities, libraries should continue to make a concerted effort to provide a diverse range of programs, whether members of the communities choose to actually read books or not.