Popular Authors: Keep the Old Copies?

Matt Smith —  June 16, 2017 — 5 Comments

pile-of-booksLibraries have different ways of dealing with extra copies. After these books are 6-8 months old, they’re ready to retire to the regular stacks. But how many copies should we hold on to? And for how long? At our library, we keep two copies and hold onto them until they get weeded (which means no checkouts in 4 years). So, browsing through our regular stacks, it’s hard not to notice the many copies of older Patterson’s, and Baldacci’s, and [any popular author we get more than two copies of]. Many are newer, but many are old – really old. Like over 10 years old. Do we really need two copies of a Patterson novel from 2002? That’s a lot of real estate, after all.

Turns out, yes.

Focusing on our Central (downtown) Branch, I recently ran an experiment in CollectionHQ tracking the performance of (a) books we had two copies of and (b) that were at least 10 years old. I scanned a large sample of these books into one experiment, a total of 281 books – from Child to Connelly, Cussler, Evononvich, Kingsbury, Koontz, Macomber, Patterson…you get the idea.

And then I waited.

In four months, 102 of those books had circulated (35%). Not bad. In six months, 129 had circulated (46%). That’s a lot, and doesn’t count renewals, which accounted for 291 circulations. And in many cases, both older copies were checked out (not just one of them).

Don’t sleep on your older but popular authors.

Matt Smith


home brewing, reading, philosophy, religion, exercise. Husband and father.

5 responses to Popular Authors: Keep the Old Copies?


    Out of 562 copies, in 6-months there were 291 circulations. Extrapolating, that works out to a bit over 1 circ. per copy in a year. How did that figure compare to your fiction as a whole?


      Good question Scott. I honestly don’t know. To be fair and compare apples to apples, I would have to run a report/experiment that looked at circulation of very old fiction that we have one copy of. Let me get back to you, I might be able to do that….


    Were you able to discern if both copies were checked out at the same time or in succession?


      I didn’t pay that much attention to it. Some were at the same, some in succession, some weren’t at all. I just wanted to know, in general, if they were being checked out. Maybe I’ll go back and do a detailed analysis. It would be good to know what percentage were checked out at the same time–seems very relevant here. Thanks!


      I have a partial answer, not the answer you’re looking for Diana. Out of all the books I tracked, 33.6% were both checked out (both copies of the same title). Were they checked out at the same time? I don’t know. My guess is that most were, based on the amount of renewals these books generate. Which means one copy gets checked out for a couple months, maybe more, and this experiment only ran for 6 months. Looking back, I would like to re-run this experiment with truly popular authors–many of these were authors we happened to have two copies of. I would focus on the top 15 popular authors, for example, of each genre.

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