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    Which international city’s public libraries lend the most books per capita?

    Emily Temple

    July 21, 2021, 1:19pm

    The pandemic has prompted, among other things, a slew of relocations. Some of those relocations (ie. to your mom’s house) have proved, or will prove, temporary; others, encouraged by new work-from-home policies, may become permanent. Or maybe you’re one of those people who looked around at the flailing world last year and thought, screw it, I’m quitting my job(s) and moving to a brand new city halfway around the world to live my life to the fullest. For those newly minted (or reinvigorated) adventurers, the only question is: where to?

    One metric to consider (if you are reading this website anyway) is the literary culture of your intended destination. Helpfully, the World Cities Culture Forum, an organization that tracks and promotes the role of culture in cities around the world, has a variety of data sets that can help you figure out which international cities are the most literary. One of these reports which cities’ public libraries lend the most books per capita every year, which I think is a pretty good metric for picking a new community. After all, if you want to move to (or just visit, now that planes are possible again) a new city, why not try one whose citizens love to use their public libraries?

    A couple caveats: most of this data is self-reported from the WCCF’s partner cities, which means that cities not involved with the forum are not included. Also, the available data comes from different years, between 2014 and 2019, depending on the city, so there’s some room for error and evolution. (For full details and sources, head here.)

    Still, it’s interesting to see how these cities stack up. Here’s the World Cities Culture Forum’s ranking of the international cities with the most books loaned by public libraries per capita, per year:

    San Francisco: 12.18
    Helsinki: 11.05
    Toronto: 10.3
    Zürich: 8.48
    Tokyo: 8.28
    Hong Kong: 6.73
    New York: 6.53
    Melbourne: 5.99
    Singapore: 5.88
    Montréal: 5.39
    Taipei: 4.95
    Dublin: 4.41
    Edinburgh: 4.16
    Los Angeles: 4.14
    Amsterdam: 4.12
    Austin: 4
    Sydney: 3.67
    Stockholm: 3.64
    Shanghai: 3.56
    Vienna: 3.45
    Warsaw: 3.44
    London: 2.86
    Seoul: 2.65
    Cape Town: 2.48
    Moscow: 2.42
    Paris: 2.37
    Oslo: 1.88
    Madrid: 1.21
    Johannesburg: 0.8
    Shenzhen: 0.76
    Buenos Aires: 0.76
    Milan: 0.51
    Lisbon: 0.45
    Chengdu: 0.42
    Rome: 0.18
    Bogotá: 0.09
    Istanbul: 0.03

    And for comparison, here’s the base number of total book loans by public libraries in each city, per year:

    Tokyo: 111.9 million
    Shanghai: 86.2 million
    New York: 56.3 million
    Hong Kong: 47.8 million
    Los Angeles: 42 million
    Singapore: 33 million
    Moscow: 30.3 million
    Toronto: 30.2 million
    Melbourne: 29.1 million
    Paris: 28.3 million
    Seoul: 26 million
    London: 25.8 million
    Sydney: 17.7 million
    Taipei: 13.3 million
    San Francisco: 10.8 million
    Montréal: 10.5 million
    Cape Town: 9.9 million
    Amsterdam: 9.8 million
    Shenzhen: 9.1 million
    Johannesburg: 9 million
    Stockholm: 8.4 million
    Helsinki: 7.1 million
    Chengdu: 6.8 million
    Vienna: 6.1 million
    Warsaw: 6.1 million
    Dublin: 5.9 million
    Madrid: 3.8 million
    Zürich: 3.6 million
    Austin: 3.6 million
    Buenos Aires: 2.3 million
    Edinburgh: 2.1 million
    Oslo: 1.3 million
    Milan: 0.7 million
    Bogotá: 0.7 million
    Rome: 0.5 million
    Istanbul: 0.4 million
    Lisbon: 0.2 million

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