America’s Most Literate Cities

I was tipped off to this by Gwen at Literary License: The annual rating of America’s Most Literary Cities has been announced. Where does your city [or the closest city to you] rank?

1. Minneapolis, MN
2. Seattle, WA
3. Washington, DC
4. St. Paul, MN
5. San Francisco, CA
6. Atlanta, GA
7. Denver, CO
8. Boston, MA
9. St. Louis, MO
10. Portland, OR
11. Pittsburgh, PA
12. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland is the closest city to me and I’m glad to see it rank so highly on the list. It also ranks #1 in Libraries! We are #9 in Booksellers, #8 in Newspapers and #6.5 (tie with Atlanta) in Publications, but a disappointing #68 in Education and #45 in Internet Resources.

I found this statement in the Overview of the study to be particularly interesting:

First, a point commonly made about the decline of newspaper circulation is that it is caused by the rise of reading newspapers online. The conventional wisdom here is similar to the claims about the decline in bookstores: it’s caused by the rise in online book buying. And that is the same conventional wisdom that, pre-internet, claimed that library use and support of bookstores were mutually incompatible. More free book sources would be associated with fewer bookstores. And in all cases, the conventional wisdom is wrong. As the data for this and previous surveys indicates, cities ranked highly for having better-used libraries also have more booksellers; cities with more booksellers also have a higher proportion of people buying books online; and cities with newspapers with high per capita circulation rates also have a high proportion of people reading newspapers online. Cities that rank highly in one form of literate behavior are likely to rank highly in the other forms and practices of literacy. A literate society tends to practice many forms of literacy not just one or another.

I find it amusing that someone would think that library use and support of bookstores would be mutually exclusive. Certainly the person who came up with that bit of “conventional wisdom” didn’t know anyone who loved books! I am a familiar face at my local library, I buy books at my favorite local bookstores, I read books online and I buy books online. The same is true for all the booklovers I know. They may buy/borrow books in relation to their budget, but one hardly ever cancels out the other.

It’s nice to think that I live near a pretty literate city. I am not optimistic about the future of our local newspaper, but I know that the bookstores and libraries will always be there.

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