First, the competition. How many McDonald's restaurants are there in the United States? At last count we had 12,804, which is just under half the world's supply. This amounts to 1 store for about every 23,000 Americans.
Note that this is comparable to other uber-popular stores like Starbucks (which has 11,168 locations), and a lot more than the total number of bowling alleys (just over 7,000), or Walmart-owned stores (4,404).
By comparison, how many libraries are there? The American Library Association, whose business it is to know such things, reports a total of 16,671 public library locations (plus over 850 bookmobiles). So there are about 4000 more places that will lend you a book than sell you a Big Mac, and that is a heartening thought. (You can check out publiclibraries.com to find the ones near you.)
named after US presidents.
The real weight of our libraries in the United States, though, is the 99,180 academic libraries in the public and private schools. That's right, one hundred thousand libraries, full of books right at the fingertips of our students.
All told, that's 122,101 libraries, one for every 2500 people in the US. Isn't that something to restore faith in our culture? I certainly think so.
(images used without permission)