Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post’s state and local policy blog. If you have a candidate for best state, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe there’s a reason J.D. Salinger lived out his final years there and Robert Frost chose it as the subject of his first Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection. If a love of the written word can be quantified, nowhere is it stronger than in independent-minded New Hampshire.
There is no other state that claims more librarians or library visits per capita, according to the latest Public Libraries Survey, conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Perhaps the reason is rooted in history: New Hampshire claims to be home not only to the world’s first free, tax-supported public library (the Peterborough Town Library, founded in 1833) but also the nation’s oldest state library (founded in 1717). Or maybe its love of reading is rooted in law: “There is a statute that says that we cherish learning and that public libraries are a part of that,” says State Librarian Michael York.
Whatever the cause, that affinity for the written word is reflected in the state’s youth, too: New Hampshire ranks second in its share of fourth-graders reading at or above proficiency and fourth among eighth-graders, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“Our best libraries are those that work very hard on getting parents to bring their children in and then provide all kinds of activities for children,” York says. And not only do the state’s libraries host summer reading programs, like so many others, but New Hampshire even targets the unborn: The state is working with doctors to encourage expecting mothers to read to their children as soon as possible after birth.
The state also does well by its libraries, providing the resources they need to serve its population. Among states, New Hampshire ranks sixth in total library spending per capita and seventh in total circulation per capita, according to the libraries survey.