The Weird Relationship Between Libraries and Rising Development Levels

Lessons about the economic impact of libraries from extraordinary cases across Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Levi Borba


Illustration for article about the economic impact of libraries
Image by TheExpat using Canva.

When I moved to Warsaw many years ago, I noticed how every single district in my city had at least one public library. Some of them had more. I lived in different parts of the city, and there was always one at least 500 meters from my apartment or place of work.

My wife took me to get a library card so I could take books home to read. The process was quick and hassle-free.

And then I compare that with my home town, in Brazil. Despite being located in the richest of all Brazilian states, my city (77 thousand residents) had only 2 public libraries. That means 2.6 per 100,000 inhabitants (keep this number in mind for our later comparisons).

When I found the database put together by the World Cities Culture Forum (WCCF) with the number of libraries per 100,000 people in different cities, these memories came back to me.

Check also: Hold Your Breath: The World’s Dirtiest Cities.

Public Libraries per 100,000 Residents in Multiple Global Cities