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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Best Seller List

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 10, 2007

"What is on the "Best Seller List?"


That is a common question in the library from our readers.


But what is the "Best Seller List?"


It is actually a generic term used for any list of books that someone or some organization has determined is selling well enough to make their list.


Typically, in a public library, people are referring to the New York Times Best Seller List, the preeminent list of best-selling books in the U.S.


Their list is published weekly in the New York Times Book Review section of their Sunday edition.


Their Best Seller List has been published since 1942.


Their list is created from weekly sales reports obtained from independent and chain bookstores, as well as wholesalers in the U.S.


Divided into fiction and nonfiction categories, a children's literature section was added in 2001.


Many libraries, including ours, use Publisher's Weekly Magazine to chart book demand.


Their Best Seller List is usually similar to the New York Times, but they have reviews of books before their actual release date.


In this way, the library can get titles on pre-publication order to be received when published.


In addition to these lists, there are literally hundreds of other Best Seller Lists produced by other organizations.


Some are centered around specific subject areas; such as how-to, sports, and religion.


Others are based on sales related to small bookstores and the Internet.


Every book could be on somebody's Best Seller List at one time or another.


From the standpoint of book selection at the library, we use a variety of sources and reviews to select new books for the library system.


Several librarians review the selection materials, and pick books that we feel will meet the needs and requests of library users.


Some authors are automatic "buys," such as Stephen King and Danielle Steel.


Other selections are based on usage, demand, and Best Seller Lists.


And sometimes we miss, sitting without a new book that everyone wants to read, but we didn't select it.


We try to avoid that situation with rental book programs that provide books that the library can return after demand fades.


Being part of a 73-library automation system also helps cover demands that we have missed.


Our online catalog also provides 10 different Best Seller List connections, which allow the user to connect to the catalog and place a hold on a title.


And then there is Oprah.


Oprah has her book picks, as well as titles she simply mentions on television, that automatically become a most-requested book in any library.


How about that book that isn't listed anywhere, yet is sitting quietly on a library shelf waiting for its reader?


All you need is a library card.