Is CityLit "Working"?
When we started the organization in 2004, it was in part a response to the notion that Baltimore, even with its rich literary heritage, is not a "literate" city like Minneapolis, Seattle, or Portland, OR (despite what the bus benches claimed). When I talk about CityLit to people who are not from Baltimore, I ask "You know The Loft in Minneapolis? OK, what about Hugo House in Seattle? No. Literary Arts in Portland?"
I based these comparisons on a 2003 web site started by an educator who is now president at Central Connecticut State University. Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the America's Most Literate Cities study ranks the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the United States based on six indicators: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.
Here are the recent AMLC rankings for Baltimore:
2005 -- 21st
2006 -- 24th
2007 -- 27th
2008 -- 16th
From 27th to 16th in one year!? That's some leap and it led me to wonder, "Is CityLit Project working"? It is an important but often elusive question, one which is vital for nonprofits that must document effective outcomes.
Has CityLit helped turn the tide? Is Baltimore becoming more literate and literary? Will momentum initiated by CityLit push Baltimore even higher in the rankings in 2009? It may be difficult to make a direct correlation between CityLit and this jump in the ranking, but one thing's for sure: we are achieving our mission by building that community of readers and writers, thinkers and artists.
Here's some recent praise:
"My fiance and I thoroughly enjoyed the writers you featured on the CityLit Stage during the Baltimore Book Festival. Very stimulating, very diverse. You have a wonderful sense of creating dynamics among your guests that captivate the audience. I look forward to attending other events that you organize and to passing the word."
-- MiMi Zannino
Poet and Maryland Coordinator
Poetry Out Loud
2009 marks CityLit's fifth anniversary and a new chapter in the organization's story. We are rolling out a new logo, launching a new web site, adding new board members, offering new programs, establishing new partnerships, growing more efficient and effective with guidance from a new strategic plan.
Thank you, Baltimore, for helping CityLit Project fulfill its mission to nurture the culture of literature for the benefit of us all.
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