To develop the list of most checked out books, the Library evaluated a series of key factors—including historic checkout and circulation data (for all formats, including e-books), overall trends, current events, popularity, length of time in print, and presence in the Library catalog.
The Snowy Day is the hottest book in town. The beloved, innovative, award-winning children’s story, written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, is the most checked out book in The New York Public Library’s 125-year history.
For the first time, a team of experts at the Library analyzed a series of factors to compile the ten books that have been borrowed most since The New York Public Library was founded in 1895. This list as well as a limited-edition library card and MetroCard featuring artwork from The Snowy Day—launch a year-long celebration of The New York Public Library’s 125th anniversary.
To develop the list of most checked out books, the Library evaluated a series of key factors—including historic checkout and circulation data (for all formats, including e-books), overall trends, current events, popularity, length of time in print, and presence in the Library catalog. The full list:
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats / 485,583 checkouts
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss / 469,650 checkouts
- 1984 by George Orwell / 441,770 checkouts
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak / 436,016 checkouts
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee / 422,912 checkouts
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White / 337,948 checkouts
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury / 316,404 checkouts
- How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie / 284,524 checkouts
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling / 231,022 checkouts
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle / 189,550 checkouts
The list also includes an honorable mention: children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, which would have been among the system’s top checkouts if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore apparently passionately disliked the book. Consequently, while it was published in 1947, the Library didn’t carry it until 1972.
Margaret Wise Brown (May 23, 1910 – November 13, 1952) was an American writer of children’s books, including Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, both illustrated by Clement Hurd.
The Snowy Day
The Snowy Day, in print and in the Library’s catalog continuously since 1962, is a charming, beautifully-illustrated tale of a child enjoying the simple magic that snow brings to his city. It is one of the Library’s top circulated books every year (across all neighborhoods). Andrew Medlar, director of the Library’s BookOps selection team and one of the experts who helped compile the list, attributes the book’s success to its universal appeal, its fame (being a Caldecott winner and one of the earliest examples of diversity in children’s books), its wide availability in other languages, and its many years in print.
“At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the story, and it is absolutely brilliantly told,” Medlar said. “It is such a relatable story, and pure magic for kids and adults alike. It’s on people’s radar screens, they remember when they first heard it, and they want to share that experience with their kids. And the artwork is just gorgeous.”
Brooklyn-born Ezra Jack Keats (1916 – 1983) was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. He won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for illustrating The Snowy Day, which he also wrote. Keats wrote A Letter to Amy and Hi, Cat! but he was most famous for The Snowy Day. It is considered one of the most important American books of the 20th century. Keats is best known for introducing multiculturalism into mainstream American children’s literature. He was one of the first children’s book authors to use an urban setting for his stories and he developed the use of collage as a medium for illustration.
There are several key criteria that appear to influence whether a book is a top checkout:
- Length: The shorter the book, the more turnover, or circulation (this is why children’s books are often amongst the most circulated). The adult books on the list tend to be shorter, such as 1984 and To Kill A Mockingbird
- Length of time in print: Clearly, the longer a story is in print, the longer the public has to check it out. The oldest book on the list is Dale Carnegie’s ultimate self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which has been in print continuously since 1936. The newest book is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which came out in the United States in 1998 and was only able to crack this list because it was an absolute phenomenon.
- Languages available: In a city like New York City, the more languages offered means more checkouts.
- Universal appeal: The more a story appeals to a wide variety of tastes, the more checkouts it will receive.
- Current events: Particularly with adult books, what is happening in the world greatly impacts checkouts. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 see spikes in circulation depending on what’s happening in the world, and have currently seen increased popularity due to the rise of dystopian fiction, particularly in teen books.
- School: If a book has been on school lists for many decades, it is more likely to be a top checkout.
- Awards and acknowledgment: Awards generate awareness and excitement, which also generate checkouts. Several of the books on the list are Caldecott winners, for example.
This post is compiled courtesy of The New York Public Library, Wikipedia, my bookshelf, and YouTube.
About The New York Public Library For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.
More information on the Library’s 125th Anniversary celebrations is available at nypl.org/125.
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