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The Top 1,000 Books

hamlet.jpg The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) maintains a fascinating list of the top 1,000 works "most widely held by libraries," complete with cover art and links to help readers find each volume in a local library. Here's the top ten:
  1. Bible [Library holdings: 796,882 Bibliographic records: 93,567]
  2. Census (United States) [Library holdings: 460,628 Bibliographic records: 10,617]
  3. Mother Goose [Library holdings: 67,663 Bibliographic records: 2,036]
  4. Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri [Library holdings: 62,414 Bibliographic records: 2,917]
  5. Odyssey, Homer [Library holdings: 45,551 Bibliographic records: 2,087]
  6. Iliad, Homer [Library holdings: 44,093 Bibliographic records: 2,526]
  7. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain [Library holdings: 42,724 Bibliographic records: 1,132]
  8. Lord of the Rings [trilogy], J. R. R. Tolkien [Library holdings: 40,907 Bibliographic records: 685]
  9. Hamlet, William Shakespeare [Library holdings: 39,521 Bibliographic records: 2,008]
  10. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll [Library holdings: 39,277 Bibliographic records: 1,942]
Hit the jump for highlights and oddities from the list, some insight into how the list was compiled, and the answer to the really important question: Where's The World Almanac?
  • If all the Harry Potter books were bundled together, how would they have stacked up?
    We didn't bundle them together, but if we had, these books would have ranked 5th on the Top 1000 list (and 1st on the Top Fiction list, 2nd on the Top Children's list). Considered together, 44,976 Harry Potter items are held by libraries and they are represented by 496 different bibliographic records.
  • What is the highest-ranking work written by a woman?
    Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, ranks 28 on the list. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, is ranked 30, and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ranks 32.
  • Fighting like cats and dogs...
    Garfield is number 15 on the list. Snoopy is 69.
  • What about plants?
    Leaves of Grass ranked 49.
  • Who is the top monster?
    Dr. Frankenstein's monster. Ranking 43, he beat both Count Dracula (75) and Edward Hyde (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ranked 141). This year the vampire, Lestat, ranked 927 on the OCLC Top 1000 list, but Shrek didn't make the list.

wa-question.jpg Given the long, rich publication history of The World Almanac, I was surprised at first that we didn't make the list. I suspected this had something to do with our status as an annual reference, so I asked OCLC Chief Scientist Tom Hickey for a little more insight. His response:

To get the top 1000 we took all the records in WorldCat and tried to group them into ‘works’. For each work we counted the total number of libraries that have a holding associated with any one of the records within that work. For works like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, many libraries have holdings on multiple records in the work, and each one of those holdings gets counted. (This is not quite a count of copies, however, since each edition of Hamlet only gets counted once for each library that holds it.)

Since the World Almanac is typically managed as a serial publication in libraries, each library would only report a single holding for it, no matter how many copies of how many years it had on its shelves. The top record for the World Almanac has something like 3,500 holdings associated with it (which is very high for a single record). That’s not quite enough to make the list, though.

A slight wrinkle on all this is that bringing together all the records that are associated with a particular serial poses problems which we haven’t really attacked yet. This means, for instance, that title changes might not get merged, and when libraries catalog each year of the Almanac separately we don’t merge all those records towards the Almanac’s ranking.

Another way we could have ranked the works is by unique library holdings. For a serial like the World Almanac that would result in a much higher ranking. Since this should be interesting we’re going to try it and see what we get.

For more on the methodology behind the OCLC's list click here. And stay tuned for further developments...

Link: OCLC Top 1000 Books

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 23, 2007 1:00 PM.

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