What’s Popular at Northeast Ohio Libraries This Summer?

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It may surprise you, but often the most popular items at local libraries are not books. For several Northeast Ohio libraries, including the Cuyahoga County system, People magazine is tops.

“Go figure, every single month, month in and month out, People magazine is the favorite thing,” said Wendy Bartlett, collection development and acquisitions manager for Cuyahoga County Public Library.

ideastream surveyed more than a dozen libraries in Northeast Ohio to determine the most requested and checked-out items in June.  

DVDs dominated the lists of both the most-requested and circulated items at local libraries, based on data from 15 libraries or library systems across the region.

Some of those libraries, including Stark County District Library and Westlake Porter Public Library, offer mobile wireless hotspots, which are also constantly in high demand.

“What libraries are about is connecting people to information, so the hotspot fits in very well with that,” said Andrew Mangels, director of Westlake Porter Public Library.

Of course, books are also still popular at the library.

“The President Is Missing,” a thriller novel by former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson, was in high demand in June at most libraries polled.

“With Patterson, it seems like whenever his stuff comes out there’s requests for it all the time,” said Sandy Jelar Elwell, director of technical services at Cleveland Public Library.

Across the region, novels by well-known authors like Stephen King and Lisa Scottoline were hot in June. Nora Robert’s “Shelter in Place” also appeared on several libraries lists.

Titles varied quite a bit from library to library, but there has been shared interest in Cuyahoga County (and beyond) for “Little Fires Everywhere,” set in Shaker Heights, where the author, Celeste Ng, grew up.

“She is a fantastic author who is getting due credit countrywide for this great book, but of course we’re very proud that she’s actually a Shaker Heights person,” Bartlett said.  

In advance of the start of summer reading, PBS released a list of readers’ top 100 favorite novels as part of its series, “The Great American Read.” The list includes everything from classics, like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Catcher in the Rye,” to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. While those titles were not as popular as newer ones, libraries saw some renewed interest this summer.

“I think it’s definitely a great motivation to get more people reading,” Elwell said.

While readers share interest in certain books, libraries consider multiple factors when choosing what to stock. With established authors, libraries often turn to previous data, like numbers of copies ordered, checked out and requested.

“A great deal of time is looking at first time authors,” Bartlett said.

She weighs things like pre-sales orders, publishing reviews and number of copies published, when determining what to order for Cuyahoga County.

Data also tells libraries what is staying on the shelves.

“I think the challenge is that popular culture, just, it changes so fast these days with social media, you just don’t know what’s going to rise up and be the next big thing,” Mangels said.  


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