Tag Archives: popularity

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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Learning the old-fashioned way

While I do have some fond memories of watching instructional films in elementary school, they mainly involve shoving desks around the classroom, sitting on the cold linoleum floor until my butt went numb, and that one time in second grade when the projector overheated and started smoking (true story; not a Simpsons flashback). The films themselves, I don’t remember so well.

Fortunately, I can relive all of those glorious instructional moments with the help of a little series called the Educational Archives. Each one is packed full of information on everything you’ll ever need to know, from why it’s wonderful to be a girl to the importance of soap. You’ll even learn exactly why stealing a car is such a bad idea.

We also have a fine two-volume set from Kino – How to Be a Man and How to Be a Woman (those were the only choices you had back then). Apparently, to be a man one must be trustworthy and plan for success, while to be a woman one must improve one’s personality, learn how to make a sandwich, and say no to sex.

Many of these adventures in moral education come from a company called Coronet Instructional Films, and can be viewed online for free thanks to the Internet Archive. Here’s a little gem with a catchy title: Are You Popular?

So remember to study hard and respect your elders, and you’ll succeed in life. Now go make me a sandwich.*

– Amy

* Poof! You’re a sandwich!

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