New York Public Library

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library, more widely known as the Main Branch or simply as "the New York Public Library."

The New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th year, and it wondered, what are it's top 10 books? What books have been checked out the most at the library, the second largest in the US (after the Library of Congress) and the third larges in the world (after the British Library)?

It turns out that a children's book led the list: "The Snowy Day," a beloved, innovative, award-winning story written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats.

The library is said to have 53 million items and 92 locations. A team of experts at the library analyzed a series of factors to compile—for the first time ever—the 10 books that have been borrowed most since The New York Public Library was founded in 1895.

To develop the list of most checked out books, the Library evaluated a series of key factors—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. The full list:

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

The list also includes an honorable mention: children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, which would have been among the system’s top checkouts if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore disliked the story so much when it was published in 1947 that the Library didn’t carry it . . . until 1972.

'The Snowy Day'

The Snowy Day, in print and in the Library’s catalog continuously since 1962, is a charming, beautifully-illustrated tale of a child enjoying the simple magic that snow brings to his city. It is one of the Library’s top circulated books every year (across all neighborhoods). Andrew Medlar, director of the Library’s BookOps selection team and one of the experts who helped compile the list, attributes the book’s success to its universal appeal, its fame (being a Caldecott winner and one of the earliest examples of diversity in children’s books), its wide availability in other languages, and its many years in print. 

“At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the story, and it is absolutely brilliantly told,” Medlar said. “It is such a relatable story, and pure magic for kids and adults alike. It’s on people’s radar screens, they remember when they first heard it, and they want to share that experience with their kids. And the artwork is just gorgeous.”

New York Public Library 

“For 125 years, the Library has uniquely sparked, supported, and fostered a true love of reading in the people of New York City and beyond,” said New York Public Library president Anthony Marx. “Among our many roles, we look to connect people with the stories that capture their imaginations, take them places, stay with them over time, encourage them to keep turning pages, and greatly impact and shape their lives. The books on this list have transcended generations and, much like the Library itself, are as relevant today as they were when they first arrived. This list tells us something about New Yorkers over the last 125 years—what moves them, what excites them, what stands the test of time. It’s a perfect way to kick off our celebration of the Library’s 125th anniversary . . . and it’s just the beginning.”

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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