Where Do Evanston Readers Go When They Travel? The Answers May Surprise You

Two chairs on the tropical beachAbout a year ago I decided to make a little separate Travel section for Evanston Public Library’s books.  This allowed me to do two things:

  1. Figure out how many travel books we actually had on our shelves and
  2. Weed out all the egregiously ancient ones

So we picked them up and moved them to their own area on the East side of the second floor where they face the windows.  Why so far from the rest of the nonfiction?  Well, traditionally you never want to have books facing windows.  The constant sun bleaches spines faster than you can blink.  But if you have a travel book section then you don’t want older books.  You want what’s new and fresh and accurate.  Therefore they’re the perfect kinds of books to place in sunlight.  After a few years, they’ll be rotated out anyway.

One problem with moving the travel books was that now that we looked at them, we didn’t have a whole lot to show.  When they’d been integrated with the other books about countries it had been hard to assess how many we had in total.  By themselves they looked skimpy, and their numbers became even skimpier when patrons discovered the section.  We got complaints.  Something had to be done.

c700x420The solution was simply to buy whole heaping helpfuls of travel books.  Lots and lots of them from reliable sources (Fodors, Frommers, National Geographic, Insight, DK, etc.).  The trouble was that I didn’t have any reliable statistics to tell me which locations proved to be the most popular.  France is sort of a given, and in terms of cities NYC is right up there.  But Evanston isn’t like other communities.  Its residents have their own particular tastes and preferences.

Now that it’s been about a year since the move (and the new purchases) I’ve been able to run a report on the most popular individual titles in the Travel section.  From this I’ve been able to determine what goes out and what doesn’t, which will inform my selections in the future.  For example, Moscow?  Not all that popular. Go figure.

So where are Evanstonians going?  Here are the Top 20 most popular destinations as determined by the number of times individual books at EPL have gone out:

Most Checked Out Travel Books

1. Discover Barcelona
2. Frommer’s Costa Rica
3. Frommer’s Hawaii
4. Frommer’s Italy
5. Rick Steves’ London
6. Fodor’s Kaua’i
7. Pocket rough guide. Prague
8. Vienna pocket guide
9. Rick Steves’ Rome
10. The Brooklyn experience : the ultimate guide to neighborhoods & noshes, culture & the cutting edge / Ellen Freudenheim ; [foreword by Steve Hindy]
11. Only in Paris : a guide to unique locations, hidden corners and unusual objects / Duncan J. D. Smith ; photographs by Duncan J. D. Smith
12. Moon Southwest road trip
13. Rick Steves’ London
14. Rick Steves pocket Prague
15. Frommer’s easyguide to Paris
16. Eyewitness Prague
17. Lonely Planet Southwest USA
18. Fodor’s complete guide to the national parks of the West
19. The national parks coast to coast : the 100 best hikes / Ted Alvarez
20. Rick Steves’ Paris

As you can see, a couple locations come up multiple times.  No surprise that Paris specifically is up there, and Hawaii’s a given, but I was a little surprised to see Prague appear no fewer than three times!  Evanstonians also like their hiking and trails, particularly in the national parks.

A quick note about these stats: There’s no way to determine how many of these circulations are by armchair travelers vs. actual travelers.  We’ve noticed that a lot of people just like to check out travel books to dream about where they’d like to go, not where they will go.  Even so, it doesn’t cost anything to dream.  Stop by and check out some books on your favorite location next time you’re here.  I guarantee it’ll be up-to-date.


The Unexpected Bookmarks of Evanston, IL

You’re reading a book from the library. It is good.  You are having a good time, but something unexpected comes up.  You need to hold your place and being a responsible patron you know that you can’t just break the book’s spine and hold your location by splaying it across the back of a chair or a dog.  So you grab the nearest bookmark at hand.  Time passes.  You don’t go back to the book, and you’ve also forgotten the bookmark.  You return the book to the library where we find it and, in some cases, stare in bafflement at what we find.

Today, we are celebrating unexpected bookmarks.  Now I’m not a member of the circulation staff so I had to get their help in identifying some of the stranger donations.  Here’s a quickie 101 on Evanstonian bookmarks 2016:


Without a doubt the MOST common bookmark at EPL is the Ventra card.  Do we check them for money?  We do not.  So if you’re using one make sure that puppy is empty empty empty.


This is my favorite find.  An old punch library card.  According to members of our staff, each book would have one of these (you can see that it was a book called LAKE CHAMPLAIN by Van De Wa(something) and that it had a call # of 974.7.  Before computers as we know it, the librarians would just punch out the books.  Technology at its finest!


Children of the 80s unite!  As a child I was forbidden from owning any Garbage Pail Kids cards (a gross reactionary creation to the Cabbage Patch Kids).  I nonetheless managed to get my hands on some.  Did you know that Art Spiegelman did quite a few of them?  True story.  In any case, this little guy ended up in one of our books.


Well you would hardly expect another city’s team to be used to hold someone’s place, would you?


This appears to be less a bookmark and more a crie de coeur.  At least they didn’t write this in the book itself.  That would be just a bit more irony than I could handle.


Well, it’s not like any of us have kept track of all our eighth place ribbons, after all.


Any idea what this is?  Aside from the fact that I can’t figure out how you’d go about making a coin even work as a bookmark (don’t they just sorta roll out?) I’m not sure what this actually is.


Awwww. If every single patron used a hand-drawn image from Bob’s Burgers as a bookmark, what a wonderful world this would be.


And finally, the #1 most common bookmark found in returned library books is . . . . .


Thanks for playing, everybody.  And remember to check those books before you taken them back.

Introducing the 2016 Holiday Gift Guide from the Evanston Public Library Staff!

It’s that time of year again. In fact, if you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, you might be glancing nervously at the calendar (like me) worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to ship your items in time.

With that in mind, let Evanston Public Library ease your worries a tad. If you need book recommendations, we’ve got ’em! Our staff has culled together some stellar suggestions for everyone on your list.

Now the list as it appears here will be a bit small.  Print it out in a larger size (PDF version)if you’re able or, better yet, come by our RA Desk on the second floor and pick up a couple copies for you and your friends.  All titles on these lists are 2016 titles.

Happy Holidays!