The Best Countries for Book Lovers

Slovakia is best known for its postcard-perfect castles and dramatic landscapes. But there’s another kind of building in this central European nation that rivals its citadels, mansions, and manors in importance and abundance: libraries.

Based on data from the Online Computer Library Center Inc (OCLC) and the World Bank, the graphic below demonstrates which countries have the most, and the fewest, libraries per 100,000 residents. Slovakia, it turns out, is a paradise for book lovers.

But libraries aren’t just about books. They play an integral role in the social fabric of their communities. They provide literacy training to the homeless, offer a valuable gathering space for civic groups, and grant access to educational resources.

According to iSchool Associate Professor of Practice Jill Hurst-Wahl, “some countries don’t have a rich history of libraries,” and many of those same countries “don’t have a rich history of education.”

So it’s not surprising that a strong positive correlation exists between library rankings and development indexes, such as the United Nations Development Program’s Education Index. Hurst-Wahl also notes that there are important stories hidden behind the rankings.

“Cultural institutions are under attack,” she says. “What the statistics don’t show are the countries where libraries are being destroyed — like in Iraq and Syria.” Hurst-Wahl says she hopes questions raised by these rankings might increase awareness of the tragedies that often go uncovered in the media.

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If you believe in the power of libraries to transform lives as much as we do, we strongly encourage you to share our graphic on your website and cite as "created by Syracuse University's School of Information Studies master of information management program". To request our dataset, please email editor@ischoolonline.syr.edu.

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