After repeatedly finding itself topping lists it would rather not be on, St. Louis has finally landed on a list it can be proud of.
Amazon.com recently kicked off the summer reading season with its annual list of the “Most Well-Read Cities In America.”
While St. Louis didn’t rank in the top five, it did come in at number 18. The rankings were determined using data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales–both print and in Kindle format–since June 1, 2011 on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.
St. Louis’ ranking on the national list didn’t surprise Jennifer McBride, spokesperson for the St. Louis County Public Library.
“Last year we had our busiest year ever,” she said. “We broke a circulation record with over 12 million items circulated.”
And the County Library had the highest usage ever on top of that. “We had about 450,000 people come into the library or attend a program last year,” McBride said.
What’s causing the increased usage?
“Outside sources speculate that the economy is the reason, and people are taking advantage of free resources more but I like to think we offer a nice variety of services,” McBride said. “Our collection is very diverse. We have not just books but we have DVDs, CDs, video games, e-media.”
Another popular library program is the series of free lectures by top authors. “We also have one of the best free authors series in the country,” McBride said. “We bring in about 50 authors each year free of charge to the public.”
Recently 900 people turned out at Library Headquarters to see Andy Cohen, a St. Louisan who is a television executive at Bravo. Other recent speakers include writer Anne Lamott, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and author Jonathan Franzen.
“We’ve brought in a number of big name authors,” McBride said “I think that’s appealing to people as well.” And while other cities have authors series, St. Louis repeatedly lands popular personalities. “We definitely are ahead of the curve in terms of bringing in some these big name people,” McBride said.
In hard times, the library is the best ticket in town. Check out this article at the St. Louis Beacon for all the things you can do for free at your local library.