Tag Archives: card catalog

What are the Most Popular (Nonfiction) Books in the Library?

With all due respect to CBS and you-know-who’s top ten lists.

That is one of the more frequently asked questions I am asked, or a variation thereof.  It might be “What’s the most popular?” or maybe “What has gone out the most?”  It’s kind of intriguing so I decided to see if I could find out.  We have a tool that lets us mine the staff side of the catalog, the pages that aren’t web-based and intuitive to use.  It has the business-like name of Create List, and we use it pretty frequently to check collections, locations of materials, copies of titles and things like material codes (book, microfilm, DVD) and publisher information.  It’s our inventory control software.

On its surface what I wanted to find sounds straightforward – find the books (nonfiction) with the most circulations in the library.  With Create List, that search is reduced to two lines of a controlled vocabulary search-string that looks like this:

      • ITEM  LOCATION  starts with  “xros”  AND
      • ITEM  TOT CHKOUT  greater than  “10”

The xros locations cover the 3 floors with circulating non-fiction (except parts of the music collection) and I felt 10 total checkouts was a safe starting point to keep the search time short.  You might know them as 2nd floor, the mezzanine, and 3rd floor.

Now, here’s the caveat.  As old as our collection is – there are titles going back to before 1900 – for the purposes of the online catalog, the oldest records date from September, 2002.  This is electronic inventory sleight-of- hand; the arbitrary point in time when we migrated catalog records to the online system. Doesn’t matter when a book was originally published, its digital record was created in 2002.  So, what I have is a listing of the most circulated nonfiction titles using September 2002 as the circulation starting point of the whole collection.  I don’t have, or at least don’t have access to, any of the paper records that might have been saved with the retro information prior to 2002 . In reverse order (total checkouts in parentheses) the top 10 most circulated nonfiction titles are:

#10 (125)  The Right Dog for You: Choosing a Breed that Matches Your Personality, Family, and Life-Style / Daniel F. Tortora

#9  (127)  The Psychology of Dreams / by Paul R. Robbins

#8  (129)  An American Childhood / Annie Dillard

#7  (132)  Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament / Kay Redfield Jamison

#6  (134)  Magic of a Mystic: Stories of Padre Pio / Duchess of St. Albans

#5  (140)  Survival in Auschwitz; and, The Reawakening: Two Memoirs / Primo Levi

#4  (142)  Think & Grow Rich / Napoleon Hill

#3  (143)  Severe Personality Disorders: Psychotherapeutic Strategies / Otto Kernberg. (Currently not available.)

#1  (163)  How to Play Good Opening Moves / Edmar Mednis

Now that I know this, I can’t decide how I feel about it.  Did I / did you expect it to be more . . . classical or literary, and is that expectation really a euphemism for what we wanted the list to be, what it would say about the collective us?  Even if I don’t particularly like Fitzgerald or Milton, don’t the rest of you?

– Richard

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Library Reflections

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library.  The only entrance requirement is interest.”

Lady Bird Johnson

With all the attention libraries have received in recent months, I have been thinking back on decades behind the reference desk.  I arrived at a time when paper books were the norm.  Many of the books we used to answer people’s questions didn’t even have indexes, so we perused their contents page by page.  Experienced staff laboriously created and maintained homemade records, clipping, indexing, and filing, while passing on wisdom orally to younger generations. Smaller libraries, with limited collections, had to call even to find out if we had a particular title on the shelf.

The internet, of course, has changed the very nature of the reference process. People are able to do more basic research at home–including students with full-text access to many magazine articles. As in the past, reliability of resources must be considered and librarians are turned to for help in answering more complex problems, or for recommendations.

Today, as more and more experienced librarians retire, we are encouraged that a new generation of energetic, technically-minded and enthusiastic young people are choosing the profession.  One day, in the all-too-near future, I shall walk out the door for the last time to begin the final phase of my life.  When that happens, I shall take with me the memory of many fine co-workers over the decades and an amazement at the human mind’s endless questioning and desire to know.

To quote Samuel Johnson, “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.”

–Patience

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