by Guest Blogger John Threlfall
What kind of books get placed in Little Free Libraries? Who puts them there? From where? How often? Which authors? Questions were many; the answers lay in our library.
With the public libraries closed due to the pandemic this spring, it seemed the ideal time to open our own Little Free Library. My wife, Beth, and I have long been Fernwood community builders and, as a professional writer and life-long word-nerd, I alphabetize for fun and always shelve books thematically. So when we transformed a bedside table into the Fernwood Re-Public Library back in April, one word sprang immediately to mind: statistics.
My stats system isn’t flawless—morning and night I log the books that come and go (undoubtedly missing a few)—but it’s efficient enough to build up a statistical base. I keep the data points simple: title, author, genre, notations, paperback/hardcover, dates in & out, placement (us vs. public) plus any other objects that show up (food, cassettes, drill bits).
In the 15 weeks since the Fernwood Re-Public library opened on April 26, we’ve seen 661 books come and go—395 of which were placed by the public, 266 by us. Not surprisingly, fiction far outweighs nonfiction (535 / 126), paperbacks exceed hardcovers (520 / 141), and works by women trump those by men (430 / 204).
Mysteries have been the most popular (91), followed by children’s titles (86), literary fiction (69), thrillers (62), historical fiction (49) and young-adult novels (40). Authors most frequently appearing have been Scandi-noir queen Camilla Läckberg (11) and Scottish crime king Ian Rankin (10).
Busiest days were June 5 (23 check-outs) and July 25 (26 check-ins); we’ve only had 4 days with no check-outs and 6 days without check-ins. Most popular letter by title—excluding “the”—is “S” (62), followed by “A” (49) and, surprisingly, “B” (46); by contrast, 169 books began with “The”. Only two books have come back and gone out again three times: the family mystery The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley and the historical novel Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory.
Longest stay in the library has been 32 days (Dan Robinson’s biography of hockey legend Pat Quinn); oldest book by publication date was 1944 (Emily Hahn’s China To Me), while the oldest book historically dates from 50 BCE (The Complete Poems by Gaius Valerius Catullus). Strangest title was a Russian chiropractic manual, written completely in Cyrillic . . . which was subsequently shredded and thrown into our yard.
Non-book deposits include a set of greeting cards, 5 street maps, 4 squirt guns, 3 VHS tapes, 2 loaves of bread, 1 drill bit set and, variously, a box of tea (chamomile), set of prescription glasses (+0.75) and single Christmas ornament.
So far, we’ve managed to limit ourselves to keeping just 14 books out of our library (our summer reading list), and have (to date) visited 84 of the 300-plus Little Free Libraries in Greater Victoria—assisted in no small way by the fantastic Little Free Libraries map created by Victoria Placemaking.
Question: what do you see happening at your favourite Little Free Library?