Sheffield’s most unpopular library books revealed

Burngreave Library

16 September 2013
Image � Paul David Drabble

Burngreave Library 16 September 2013 Image � Paul David Drabble


Once upon a time, on a library shelf near you, there sat a very unpopular little book...

And in fact ‘Young Frederick Douglass: The Slave Who Learned to Read’ has just been revealed as the most unwanted story in Sheffield.

The children’s tale - the biography of a 19th century slave who escaped to become a leader of the abolitionist movement - has not been borrowed from Burngreave Library since January 1997.

A wildlife encyclopedia, a tome entitled ‘365 inspirations for a great life’, The Role of the United Nations and the Bouncy Lamb Play Book are all also among the most unpopular paperbacks and hardbacks revealed to The Star.

Non-fiction books make up the majority of a list of Sheffield’s least popular library books - with some remaining on the shelves for more than 15 years.

Of the most unwanted books in Sheffield’s 30 libraries, 21 are non-fiction, and many are written for children.

Nick Partridge, Sheffield Council’s libraries, archives and information manager, said books which continue to be unpopular might be moved to a different library branch - or eventually get donated to charity.

“Most of the books in our library collection are well read and loaned out on a regular basis,” he said.

“Other books are loaned out less often - they might be books that do not appeal to a wide audience but are important to a smaller group of readers nonetheless. They might also be books that have become less popular over time.

“If books are being borrowed less often we often move them to another library to allow other readers to see them.

“If a book continues to be unpopular we consider whether it is still needed, looking at the availability of alternative titles, how it relates to community and cultural needs and whether it is a title customers would expect us to stock.

“Books no longer needed by the libraries are passed to companies that work with libraries across the country to dispose of unwanted books, including donating them to charity.”

At Totley Library, children’s book Planes by Victoria Parker was the least popular and has not been borrowed since September 2000, while the Illustrated Encylopedia of Wildlife, Volume 2, has remained in Woodhouse Library since January 2001.

At Chapeltown Library, however, the least popular book - a romantic novel called Outback Engagement - has been untouched only since June 2008.

Dr Katherine Ebury, from The University of Sheffield’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, said: “It’s of course true that the popularity of certain books goes in cycles. What’s interesting about this list is it contains a lot of non-fiction and children’s books.

“It’s always possible fiction that was quickly forgotten can acquire cult status, as happened last year with John Williams’s Stoner, a 1965 novel about an academic which suddenly made all the bestseller lists through word of mouth. But I don’t think any of the books on this list will be showing up on bestseller lists any time soon.

“With non-fiction, information dates extremely quickly - I think people must be getting their information online instead.

“Similarly, with children’s fiction, attitudes to childhood can seem dated very quickly, with just a few classics like Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows remaining popular.”




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