The Online Computing Library Center (OCLC) has updated for 2005 its list of the "top 1000" titles owned by its member libraries. (Dave Lull sent me the link.) According to OCLC’s website, these are the "intellectual works that have been judged worth owning by the ‘purchase vote’ of libraries around the globe."
The top 10, in order, are: The Bible, the US Census, Mother Goose, The Divine Comedy, The Odyssey, The Iliad, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Lord of the Rings (trilogy), Hamlet and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
I find this mixture a somewhat eclectic mix, so thought I’d note the next 10: Don Quixote, Beowulf, the Koran, The Night Before Christmas, Garfield at Large, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Aesop’s Fables, Arabian Nights, Macbeth, Gulliver’s Travels.
Of the books in the top 20, the Bible, the Koran, both Twains, the Arabian Nights and Don Quixote were once banned. It is a relief to know that Garfield never suffered this fate.
The ranking in the list is determined by how many libraries own the title in question. I don’t know if multiple titles at one libraray are counted, or if there is any weighting for the number of times a title is borrowed. But the list seems to be created from more than 53,000 libraries in 96 countries. Here’s a link to some more information about OCLC and how it works.
Dave Lull has also provided a link to some "fun facts" about the list. Here’s a couple of sample entries:
What is the highest-ranking work written by a woman?
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, ranks 28 on the list. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, is ranked 30, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ranks 32
Who is the top monster?
Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Ranking 43, he beat both Count Dracula (75) and Edward Hyde (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ranked 141). This year the vampire, Lestat, ranked 927 on the OCLC Top 1000 list, but Shrek didn’t make the list.
There is also a brief comparison of duplicate titles on the OCLC list with various others.
Thanks, Dave, I enjoyed the rather crazy experience of looking round the OCLC site.
I wonder, though, how much all of these books are read as opposed to purchased/check-out-able–the one that particularly prompts me to ask this is "Gulliver’s Travels," which is a special favorite of mine but which I find absolutely none of my undergraduate students have read….
To get an idea, for U.S. libraries at least, of what’s actually being borrowed, see the Library Journal’s Most Borrowed Books list
Since I last checked, Library Journal itself has made it’s lists available for free here with a breakdown by various categories:
"Library Journal’s Best Sellers is compiled from data on books borrowed and requested (placed on hold) at public libraries throughout the United States. It includes statistics from urban, suburban, and rural libraries."
Oops. That should be "its lists." I need more caffeine, to offset my loss of an hour of sleep to my region’s move to "daylight saving time," which as Bill Kauffman points out is "that puzzling ritual of mass clock-winding ill befitting freeborn Americans."
Thank you, Jenny D and Dave. Do we assume that borrowed books are also read? I will certainly check the "most borrowed" link — I posted recently on a similar list for the UK, which was not in the least erudite.
I must add its/it’s to the that/which, commas and hyphens debates that roll around and around;-)
Know what you mean about the daylight saving time, Dave, we’ve swapped over too (a week or two before the US, which renders inter-office communication particularly tortouous). Amazing how hard it is to adapt to this one little hour difference, remembering all the darn clocks (and remembering not to change those clever enough to know to change for themselves).
Definitely, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, a "three cup problem".
And I see my fingers stumbled on "torturous".
I’m a bit late to the commenting here, I expect, but thought I’d give you my two cents worth anyway. Which is:
"I think the extreme divergence between the top 10 books held, and the top 10 borrowed (in the US anyway, as per the list supplied by Dave) strongly suggests libraries hold what it is thought right and proper to have on the shelves. I consider myself to be a fairly well-read individual, and I have actually read (cover to cover) just 4 of those 10 (and that includes the LOTR 3)."
I wish I could fix this.
I can confirm you are a better-read individual than me, Giles G-B. However, no disgrace in not having read Garfield