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.

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