Most travelled books

2 minute read

We often report on the number of times book titles in the LibrariesWest catalogue have been issued. Or the number of times individual copies have been issued.

There will be good reasons for keeping an eye on this data, clearer to library staff than us. Some reasons are obvious: popularity of stock gives insight into what people want, and how often particular sets, such as Books on Prescription titles, are being issued. It can also provide data on the condition of items, and shelf-life of an item.

The number of issues may be a good usage indicator for a book, but a book will also have a travel distance. Where has it been in its lifetime? That might include travel between libraries, and user locations such as a home address. It’s particularly interesting in LibrariesWest, as we have a shared catalogue between 7 different library authorities. Any member of LibrariesWest can take out a book from any library, and return it to any library. They can also place a reservation for an item held by any library, and choose to pick up that reservation at any library. That could be as far ranging as between a South Gloucestershire library and a Poole one (a long way). This isn’t just normal inter-library lending between authorities, which is usually relatively small counts, this is day-to-day usage of the system.

How can we measure the distance travelled by a book? For every issue, we know the library it was issued in, the library that it was returned to, and the library the item is held at. We don’t know (and don’t want to know) what happens to the item when it’s with the user. They may take it on holiday, to the pub, or carry it around when going to work. But even without user locations, we can assume a very basic ‘route’ for a book (or item).

  • Item is sent from holding library to issuing library;
  • Item is collected by user, read (or looked at, whatever), and taken by user to return library;
  • Item is sent from return library to holding library.

Calculating the distance for that route requires location data for the libraries involved. For this kind of analysis, the postcode is generally accurate enough. We use postcode location data taken from Ordnance Survey’s open data product code-point open, to match to the postcodes we have in the Library Management System for the libraries.

Which items are the most travelled?

For every item in the catalogue we’ve calculated which are the most travelled. We’ve also shown the number of issues for those items. Here’s the top ten. Our most travelled item is a copy of ‘The killing in the Cafe’, which has managed 1214 miles from 20 issues.

Title Author ISBN Miles Issues
The killing in the cafe Brett, Simon 9781780295657 1214 20
The bone field Kernick, Simon 9781780894539 999 15
Mrs Pargeter’s public relations Brett, Simon 9781780290928 970 16
Meet me at Beachcomber Bay Mansell, Jill 9781472208910 916 15
A year and a day Broom, Isabelle 9781405925334 910 16
Never alone Haynes, Elizabeth 9781908434968 901 16
What dark clouds hide Holt, Anne 9781848876187 854 14
No place for a woman Wood, Valerie 9780552171199 845 14
The girl below stairs Felton, Jennie 9781472210517 842 14
The body on the doorstep MacKenzie, A. J. 9781785761201 840 16