This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 5, 2000

January 5, 2000 - Hardest Working Books in the Library

I'm writing this on December 30, 1999 (I know, it seems like a millennium ago) in the faith that civilization as we know it will survive long enough to publish this column, and for you to read it.

Speaking of survivors, we recently ran a report to find out which specific copies of library books had been checked out the most times. (In the library trade, we call the number of checkouts "circs," which is short for "circulations.") Holly Deni, our associate director for support services, calls this the list of our "hardest working books." Like James Brown, Godfather of Soul, Rap Godfather, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, these books have earned their keep.

It's always interesting to me to see what people actually read, as opposed to what they are supposed to read. You won't find a single "classic" book on the list.

For instance, the hardest working book in our collection is: The Right Dog For You, by Daniel Tortora. It's gone out 200 times.

Incidentally, of the top ten books, five of them are about dogs. The other four titles are, The Complete Dog Book, by the American Kennel Club (190 circs); Choosing the Right Dog, by John Howe (178 circs); Man's Best Friend: The National Geographic Book of Dogs (150 circs); and the Ultimate Dog Book, by David Taylor, et al. (149 circs).

Three of the remaining five also fall into a distinct category: home decorating. They are, Laura Ashley Windows, by Laura Ashley and Elizabeth Wilhide (154 circs); Less Is More: The Practical Guide To Maximizing Space in Your Home, by Elaine Lewis and Judith Davidson (152 circs); and Decorating with Personal Style, by Better Homes and Gardens (150 circs).

The last two of the top ten are mysteries: D is For Deadbeat, by Sue Grafton (188 circs); and While My Pretty One Sleeps, by Mary Higgins Clark (157 circs).

Number 13 on the list, by the way, is a local work: Castle Rock: A Grass Roots History, by Robert Lowenberg (141 circs).

I want to emphasize that these aren't necessarily the titles that have been checked out the most. That honor belongs to the fictional works of John Grisham. The books I mentioned above are single copies of books that have gone out over 150 times, and lived to tell the tale.

It's also kind of charming to realize that only 20% of our customers for these books are interested in sex and violence (not that Clark or Grafton are especially extreme in either).

Incidentally, to satisfy my own curiosity, I asked Holly to run another report. Which patrons, of all the patrons in our database have checked out the most materials? (Our computer doesn't keep track of what they read, just the total number of items.) I wasn't going to publish this, but thought a nice note thanking people for the last century of use would be appropriate.

However, it's worth pointing out that the person who has checked out the most items from the Douglas Public Library District is ... a librarian. In fact, my wife. She's checked out, in the past ten years, almost 24,000 items. (She also gave me permission to mention her in this column.) My daughter hasn't checked out even a third as many, although 7,000+ is certainly respectable.
So just in case anybody is wondering, we LaRues don't just preach the value of reading. We practice it.

And on behalf of Cagney, our greyhound, and Freddy, our border collie, let me just say that we're doggone proud of it, too.

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