When I lived in Kentucky I was surprised how terrible the Harry M. Caudill Memorial Library was. Small, dark, and sadly under-resourced. It really demonstrated that in much of Appalachia “book learnin’” was not considered all that important. While we lived there one county actually held a referendum where the local residents voted to not have a library.
After the joys of the Hamilton Public Library I realized that we treated reading much better in Canada. (Although the public libraries in and around Ottawa, the nation’s capital were also rather uninspiring.)
Now, as I prepare to leave Canada for France, I’m reminded once again that comparing us to the Americans is never really a measure of anything useful. Whether it’s guns or health care, feeling superior to the Behemoth to the south of us really ignores all of the other countries that roundly trump us in almost every category.
Libraries are another measure of a country’s civilization, and when you compare Canada and France we once again come away wanting.
The thing today that impressed me about our new home, and saddened me about the country that we’re leaving, is one simple statistic; the number of libraries in each country.
In France there is one library for every 4000 people.
In Canada the number is one for every 12,000 Canadians.
It makes me very happy to be moving to a country with triple the number of public libraries. And its great encouragement to continue building up my French language skills.