Library Top Ten borrowed books

How very depressing, and probably reflected across many public libraries is the list of the top ten borrowed fiction works at Brisbane City Libraries. (see also this Brisbane Times article).

2010 top ten

  1. Nine Dragons – Michael Connelly
  2. The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown
  3. The Scarpetta Factor – Patricia Cornwell
  4. Alex Cross’s Trial – James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  5. The Associate – John Grisham
  6. 206 Bones – Kathy Reichs
  7. The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson
  8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
  9. The Scarecrow – Michael Connelly
  10. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

2009 top ten

  1. The Associate – John Grisham
  2. The Brass Verdict – Michael Connelly
  3. Scarpetta – Patricia Cornwell
  4. The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson
  5. The Appeal – John Grisham
  6. The Front – Patricia Cornwell
  7. Alex Cross’s Trial – James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  8. Nine Dragons – Michael Connelly
  9. The Scarecrow – Michael Connelly
  10. Plum Spooky – Janet Evanovich

There is only one work of literary fiction amongst that number (which is also the only Australian work too).

The lists above are only for adult fiction, so I am sure that the children’s and young adult fiction works borrowed were of a more improving nature.

Andrew Carnegie, and here in Australia, Sir Redmond Barry thought that the provision of free public libraries would improve, cultivate and ennoble the population. The provision of crime novels I would contend is hardly doing that.

Is the role of the library still to improve and educate the public, or should it just cater to the popular. When free public libraries were first founded it was because there was an unavailability of affordable works of non-fiction and literary fiction, while there was an ample cheap supply of what were known as ‘penny dreadfuls’ which were seen as debasing. Those popular works of crime and suspense were not historically purchased by libraries as there was no shortage of access, but now, when there is a still less shortage of access, they are a mainstay of library shelves. Has our role changed so much and is it now elitist to suggest that some degree of reader education should be attempted?

It is expected today, particularly when libraries are under threat, that popular genre works will be supplied along with more reflective works. There should be no suggestion that we should not supply these books but we do not have to promote them further by advertising them or by buying many copies. It would be beneficial to the average reader that when they asked for a crime novel they were instead counselled by a librarian on the benefits of reading a work by someone with moral authority such as the Australians J.M. Coetzee and Helen Garner.

In Sydney’s Mosman and Parramatta Libraries the top ten lists are quite different. Sydney libraries (as of all NSW) are the least well funded in Australia. Does this mean that NSW libraries, unlike Brisbane do not get large numbers of individual popular books (which then raise their ability to be borrowed thus increasing their top 10 rankings?). With the top book lent for 2010, Nine Dragons, for example, Mosman (Shorelink) libraries had 5 copies, Parramatta Libraries had 6 copies, but Brisbane which loaned it most had 33 copies. But taking into account the number of libraries in these systems, Brisbane did/does not proportionally have more copies of the books in question. So either the readers of the library systems have different tastes or the libraries promote their holdings differently.


One thought on “Library Top Ten borrowed books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s