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The Best of 2020: Metro Library Top Checkouts

The Best of 2020: Metro Library Top Checkouts

If, in 2020, you were transported to the marshes of North Carolina while reading “Where the Crawdads Sing,” or if Michelle Obama walked you through how presidential pomp and circumstance affected her family …

You were in good company.

In fact, if you borrowed either of those materials from the Metropolitan Library System’s collection, you’ve joined the ranks of those who’ve contributed to our top checkouts of the year.

We compiled the top five checkouts in categories ranging from graphic novels to DVDs and adult nonfiction to see what our customers couldn’t get enough of in 2020 — a year that threw many of us for a loop. And we gathered some interesting insights about what the popularity of those materials says about our customers, about Oklahoma County and even our world outside the county lines.

Peruse the infographic below to see what made the cut, and read on to hear some thoughts from our in-house experts about what kinds of stories data like this relay to your local librarians.

What Do the Numbers Say to You?

Did you notice our digital checkouts outnumbered physical checkouts by almost 50%? Todd Podzemny, manager of the Southern Oaks Library, sure did.

“It was really interesting we had so many more digital checkouts than physical — that hasn’t always been the case here,” he said. “That shows we were still connecting with people and fulfilling their information needs even though, because of the pandemic, they couldn’t always come to the library and get the physical copies they're used to.”

Those numbers rose as customers checked out materials from download-and-stream services like hoopla, OverDrive and Kanopy — all available for free to Oklahoma County residents with their Metro library cards.

One trend other libraries might have seen nationwide is a rise in therapy-related books. With Lori Gottlieb’s “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” making its way onto the adult nonfiction e-book list, it might follow suit with the rise in pandemic-related mental health concerns in 2020 (some online therapy companies saw client increases as high as 65% once the pandemic hit the U.S.).

One top-five category that stuck out to Podzemny was DVDs, which featured only one movie for adults. The rest? Mostly Disney. That wasn’t the case in 2019, when customers helped three movies with ratings at or above PG-13 rise to the top (“A Star Is Born,” “Green Book” and “Crazy Rich Asians”). But, with the pandemic forcing families to shelter in their homes, and children attending school virtually, parents might have needed some more family friendly entertainment.

Podzemny also thought the reemergence of Suzanne Collins was noteworthy. As her new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (a prequel to “The Hunger Games” trilogy) topped the charts, so did her three books that published more than a decade ago as customers tried to catch up on all the author’s works all at once.

“At the Edmond Library, we used to have what we called ‘The Hunger Games’ shrine,” he said. “In between Collins’ movie releases, we’d have this solid bank of ‘Hunger Games’ items, and when the new movie would come out, those shelves would be empty for months.”

“It used to be that every time one of her movies would come out, we’d run out of books, but now we can fill those needs; I think our e-book backlog really helped us out there because keeping that many physical books is almost impossible for a library system.”

Like Collins, J.K. Rowling has a way of securing top spots in the children’s categories, and in 2020, her books clinched every top-five spot in children’s e-books. Podzemny thought that might be because adults, faced with a difficult year, flocked to these fantasy books as comfort reading. But when compared to top materials from 2019, the theory doesn’t check out.

Enter Kristine Magers, the library’s collection development librarian overseeing partnerships with platforms like OverDrive, hoopla and Kanopy.

“Interesting theory but it looks like the top five of 2019 were also ‘Harry Potter,’” Magers said. “They're just perpetually popular and our children’s selector always makes sure to have plenty of copies available to check out so customers aren't deterred by long wait times.”

In fact, during the beginning of the pandemic, the publisher made the first “Harry Potter” book available as “simultaneous use” on OverDrive and hoopla, meaning there were no wait times for it for a whole month. Any customer could check it out without putting it on hold.

“We did a lot of social media promotion around that and one of our programs, and I definitely saw spikes in use for that first book,” Magers added.

And to all those preparing to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time, Podzemny commends you for helping keep on heavy rotation the Oklahoma Drivers Manual (of which there’s an online version in our Oklahoma Driving Practice Tests database). At least in this regard, some things never change — despite a global pandemic.

“It was really heartening to see the drivers’ manual still there. It’s nice to know teens are still getting their learner’s permits in the middle of all this.”

How Does the Library Use Data?

Data like this can steer the direction of public programming, and even determine what materials a library purchases. Librarians often look for those books that interest a wide swath of Oklahoma County when planning their programming. Take David Grann’s "Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI," for instance. With the book topping all three adult nonfiction categories, librarians might consider a club based around that book or theme in 2021.

And when it comes to purchasing books for the library’s collection, librarians might consider the popularity of some books and whether they’re slated for a TV or movie adaptation in the coming year.

“This kind of thing can give a forewarning of what people want, and we can over-purchase for it,” Podzemny said.

Lastly, let’s talk about marketing. Library marketers can look to those popular items for inspiration on what to promote to library customers and potential customers. Looking at the genre, artist, theme, etc., can give marketers an idea of what other materials people will be interested in.


Feeling inspired to start your year off with some popular reads? Click on the links below to borrow one of the books or movies from that category!

Physical Collection


Digital Collection