NYPL Ranks its Top Library Checkouts of All Time

Posted on: January 13th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

Photo: NYPL

As part of its 125th anniversary celebration, the New York Public Library released its top ten checkouts of all time. And some of the results are surprising.

The list was culled from a variety of criteria, 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.

Without further ado:

  1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – 485,583 checkouts
  2. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss – 469,650 checkouts
  3. 1984 by George Orwell – 441,770 checkouts
  4. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – 436,016 checkouts
  5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 422,912 checkouts
  6. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – 337,948 checkouts
  7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 316,404 checkouts
  8. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – 284,524 checkouts
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – 231,022 checkouts
  10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – 189,550 checkouts

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown received an honorable mention and would’ve been among the top ten, had it not been for this interesting tidbit. Anne Carroll Moore, the NYPL’s extremely influential children’s librarian loathed the book; so much so that when it was published in 1947 she was able to keep it off the shelves until 1972. Perhaps Moore also thought the “goodnight nothing” blank page was Wise’s nihilistic way of mailing it in.

It’s not terribly surprising that Dr. Seuss’ polarizing feline cracked the top ten, especially considering that Geisel was a very popular political cartoonist at PM during the 1940s. We’d be remiss, however, to not mention the merits of the cleverly crafted Yertle the Turtle or The Sneetches, over that insufferable rascal and his home-wrecking cronies.

To commemorate the winning title, both the Library and the MTA are releasing special edition library cards and MetroCards with artwork from the beloved Ezra Jack Keates picture book. Library branches will also feature The Snowy Day during storytime and craft programs during January and February.

“For The Snowy Day to be recognized as the most checked out book in the history of The New York Public Library would have been for Ezra Jack Keats, as it is for us at the EJK Foundation, the highest honor he could ever receive,” said Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “As a young boy, Ezra found a safe haven and inspiration in the public library. Part of his legacy has been to extend the welcome of public libraries by creating books that reflect the diverse faces of the children who use the library.”

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