Madison, a city where tailgating and football are a sacred Saturday event, has earned top honors for literacy.
The city of Madison placed fourth in a new study that examined the levels of literacy in the nation’s 79 major cities.
The study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Chancellor, Jack Miller, looked at cities with populations of 200,000 or more. The results were determined by five factors, including newspaper circulation, quality of libraries, number of bookstores, education level attained by citizens and number of periodicals published.
Despite the city’s overall fourth place ranking in the study, Madison was third among cities in the level of education category, a factor that contributed to its high placement.
The Capital Times reported that cities with larger universities and technical colleges, like Madison, generally ranked higher than those without.
Many big cities, such as New York City, have large universities. Madison’s schools and colleges had a greater impact in the study, however, thanks to their high standing in public education.
Some students, librarians and local bookstore owners also said they feel the University of Wisconsin influenced Madison’s high ranking.
“Obviously this university affected the study. With a population of just over 200,000, and the university making up about a quarter of that population, the literacy levels are naturally going to be high,” UW senior Derek van Dijkum said.
The university’s library system represents the eleventh largest collection in North America. Memorial Library alone receives over 1 million visits per year. Despite these statistics, Madison ranked only 18th in the library accessibility category.
Barbara Dimick, Madison Library Director, feels the city’s libraries could be improved if they received more money for materials.
“Last year our budget was $1.2 million for all materials, which was down about $50,000 from the previous year, but still amounts to about $5.56 per person for materials,” she said.
Still, Dimick maintained that Madison libraries perform at a competitive level compared with cities of similar size.
“We’re always [ranked] way up there in terms of library visits per capita,” she said.
In the category examining number of bookstores per city, including the number of rare and used bookstores, Madison was fourth in the country.
Sandi Torkildson, owner of the local bookstore Room of One’s Own, cited the university and general Madison population as the reason for the city’s ranking.
“We have a high educational level in this city, and I think when people come to town, they’re amazed to find how many bookstores we have,” Torkildson said.
The cities representing the top three spots in the literacy study were Minneapolis, Seattle, and Pittsburgh, respectively. Milwaukee, the only other city eligible for the study in the state of Wisconsin, received an overall ranking of 34th.