As we prepare for events for our 125th anniversary, I have been going through the Town Annual Reports and the Library section of the report. For many years the report includes the circulation by month and by category. In the 1940s the report emphasized how much the nonfiction books circulation was increasing as people were preparing for new types of jobs and for the war effort. This is from the Town Annual Report of 1941:
I wondered if this didn’t show the bias of the librarian (or whoever made the purchases) in favor of nonfiction and practical education instead of “recreational” reading. So I went looking to see what goes out in our library now. We certainly purchase more fiction than nonfiction in the adult section as you can tell by the New Book shelves. As I write this 37% of our new books are checked out. Is that because those books have the most “buzz”, the shelves are easy to browse, or are people looking for the newest by their favorite authors?
I could look at the numbers of our books, dvds, audiobooks and ebooks that are checked out, but, really, because we borrow books from other libraries in the SAILS system and even items from other Massachusetts libraries, that would not give an accurate picture of what our people really are reading.
So I’m left with the conundrum: does nonfiction go out less because we don’t order as much or because people now get more of their information from the internet, television and even youtube (which seems to have replaced cookbooks and many craft books.) Our dvd collection goes out a lot, which counts as “recreational.” If we bought more, more would go out (but we certainly don’t have the space.)