Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Popular Reading and the College Library

My Favorite Book

I know. I know. I've written about my collection development philosophy before, but recent events have me thinking about it again. You see, my library participated in Snapshot Day 2011: A Day in the Life of Ohio Libraries last month. I've been processing the gathered data slowly - other things to do and all - and today I finally had a chance to work through the titles that people named as their "all-time favorite book." Something struck me as I finished with the list: all but a few of the books named were works of fiction. Further, the books that weren't fiction were memoirs. At my library, at least, people's favorite books are things they've read for pleasure.

Please understand: this wasn't a scientific study. In fact, our sample was extremely biased. What we did was to ask people who were physically in the library to fill out a card explaining why the library is important to them and to name their all time favorite book. It's still a significant finding in my mind. I want to connect with passionate library users and getting data from people who actually come to the library is one part. Sure, the reasons that were given for why the library is important spanned a wide range - pleasure reading, study space, socializing, research support, etc. But when it came to their favorite books, the respondents all had one thing in mind: pleasure reading.

To my way of thinking, this is a big argument in favor of my policy of including genre fiction and popular appeal materials. However, I'm well aware of my own bias, so I'm wondering what you think about it. What's your favorite book? Why? And what do you think of including these kinds of materials in every library, regardless of the kind of library?


  1. If you've got the money in the budget it for it, sure, but we have to remember our mission to serve the research needs of our students, faculty, and staff.

    We actually subscribed to the McNaughton service, which provides popular fiction to academic libraries, for a year and I don't think it was used much.

  2. I think of it as serving the whole patron, as opposed to just their research needs. Also, I did a lot of campaigning before I started adding popular materials - talked to faculty in the English department especially. Finally, I've had to do some advertising and marketing of our popular materials. However, once word got out that we have graphic novels, there ended up being a lot of word of mouth marketing.

  3. I owe you info on McNaughton! In our academic library, it is very hot. Not only used by our faculty, but it is great for our students. We have a lot of students who don't like or stopped reading, thinking it's all boring Dickens stuff. The McNaughton books are a great way to introduce them to the idea that reading can be fun; it's a gateway drug. I've gotten graphic novels, the Jaycee Duggard book, bios on Larry Bird & Walter Payton, mysteries... & it gets them excited.

  4. I think there should be pleasure reading in an academic library. When I was a student, I didn't want to have to go to two different libraries to get all my books.

    I'm curious: If you asked, "Which book has been most useful to you" or "what kind of books do you most enjoy reading," do you think you would have gotten more non-fiction answers?