Yes, you read that correctly. Russia is number one for public libraries in the world, with over 33,000. I was shocked, flabbergasted, my jaw was literally dragging on the floor when I discovered this. On the one hand, it makes sense, given the country's Communist history. The philosophy that decrees the abolition of private ownership in this case would read: no one owns the books, everyone owns the books.
Apparently, the United Kingdom is second on the list with well over 23,000 public libraries and Germany takes a close third with over 20,000.
I know what you're asking in a jingoistic fever: okay, where's the good old US of A, that bastion of democracy and education for all? Well, we are fourth, but a very distant fourth, considering the size and population of our nation. According to the latest statistics from the American Library Association, there are just under 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. We are not very far ahead of the Czech Republic and Romania.
National tradition apparently plays a large role in determining the ratio of libraries to population. In Japan, borrowing a book is not a commonplace thing to do and hence, the country has just a smidge over 1,000 public libraries. However, in Finland, book swapping must help pass the long winter nights that last into day (and the long summer days that extend into night) because, although Finland has a population just a bit over 4% of Japan's, it has over 900 libraries.