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ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 22
October 11, 2010 5:39 PM   Subscribe

The Nation's Largest Libraries: A Listing By Volumes Held of the top 100 libraries in the USA.
posted by jjray (31 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Detroit is so far behind in so many metrics that it's nice to see that it's only fifth when it comes to something like this (among public libraries listed).
posted by klangklangston at 5:44 PM on October 11, 2010


Unfortunately, 6 million of Detroit's 7 million volumes are stored here.
posted by dersins at 5:53 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awww yeah. My university's on there with a cool 6 million volumes. This is how I feel upon seeing it everyday.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:57 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, 6 million of Detroit's 7 million volumes are stored here.

Previous MeFi FPP: Detroit Public Schools Book Depository.
posted by ericb at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2010


14 S Stanford University 8,500,000

Someone's fudging their data.....
posted by Rumple at 6:02 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not the size of your collection. It's what you do with it.
According to the Public Library Association, Multnomah County Library ranks second only to the Queens Borough Public Library, among U.S. libraries, based upon circulation of books and materials, and ranks first among libraries serving fewer than 1 million residents. Since the population of Multnomah County is much smaller than Queens, the Multnomah County Library is often considered the busiest in the nation.
posted by kipmanley at 6:05 PM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is interesting. I wonder how far from accurate the counts are. When I was writing my BA thesis, I used several books that hadn't been touched since the Dewey Decimal days and didn't even have bar codes (and according to their source surveys, they're not counting ones not cataloged in the electronic system--at least not at my library).

I'll never forget going to check out a certain 18th c. diary and having the guy at the counter thumb through it, look up at me with shifty eyes, and whisper, "this book is unscannable!"
posted by phunniemee at 6:09 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This story makes me want to weed!
posted by morganannie at 6:09 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


LC FTW
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 6:15 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm fond of UCLA's library, thanks to the Sadleir Collection, but have been known to break out into cries of inarticulate rage at the sight of the words SRLF.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2010


God bless the New York City Public Library.

That is all.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:32 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


kipmanley quoted: Since the population of Multnomah County is much smaller than Queens, the Multnomah County Library is often considered the busiest in the nation.

I recently was told that some people working at the King County Library System have a daily unofficial contest with some people working in the NYPL, seeing who checks in more books that day. (Yes, I know the Queens library system isn't part of the NYPL. I know that far too well. It's one reason out of many why I no longer live in Queens.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:42 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cincinnati? Who knew?
posted by scratch at 7:23 PM on October 11, 2010


Why is New York so far behind Boston?
posted by base_16 at 7:51 PM on October 11, 2010


(Also, nice job, SF, not even being listed!)
posted by base_16 at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2010


I am literally (see what I did there?) gushing with pride that Cincinnati Public Library is in the top ten, beaten, city-wise, only by Boston. Take that, Philadelphia!
posted by banannafish at 7:55 PM on October 11, 2010


Geh, and NYC. Whatevs.
posted by banannafish at 7:56 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm at a university with one of these big academic libraries. However they're putting more and more books into a big concrete storage shed off-campus. You can't browse these books and it often takes a couple days to obtain them via request.

So, I propose a new rule for library volume counts: if a library user can't get his or her hands on one of your books within a couple of hours, your library doesn't really own it, since it might just as well be at another library.
posted by washburn at 8:02 PM on October 11, 2010


"Unfortunately, 6 million of Detroit's 7 million volumes are stored here."

Well, no, they're not, though those are some pretty cool-slash-fucked up photos.
posted by klangklangston at 8:04 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I went to Southern Illinois University in the 80's the library was always touted as being the largest free-lending library after Library of Congress, and here I see it at 93. Have they dropped that greatly or were they embellishing the numbers a bit? Or does that word "free-lending" somehow skew their rankings? As I was graduating they were in the beginning stages of a mass relocation of a large number of books to an offsite storage facility. While at school that building was my favorite place on earth.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:18 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. According to their listing, UW-Madison has 8,059,335 volumes, where volumes are defined as "a single physical unit of any printed, typewritten, handwritten, mimeographed, or processed work, distinguished from other units by a separate binding, encasement, portfolio, or other clear distinction, which has been cataloged, classified, and made ready for use, and which is typically the unit used to charge circulation transactions."

According to our own pages:

The UW-Madison Libraries are the 11th largest research collection in North America. Our collections include:

* More than 7.3 million printed volumes
* 55,000 serial titles
* 6.2 million microforms
* 160 linear feet of manuscripts
* Over 7 million items in other formats, including government documents, maps, musical scores and more

I doubt that our collections have jumped THAT much since FY 2008.
posted by Madamina at 8:33 PM on October 11, 2010


Hooray for UT! I spent many a summer as a kid at the PCL browsing through the stacks. Though now the memory is a bit tainted. Especially since my favorite place was the 6th floor, which had a lot of the fiction stacks.
posted by kmz at 8:33 PM on October 11, 2010


I grew up in Cincinnati, and I can vouch for how awesome the library system is. It's incredibly large and comprehensive compared to the size of the city/county (41 locations!!). I now live in a city that's only slightly smaller but with an absurdly terrible branch system. I was shocked when I moved away and found out that not all public library systems circulate their magazine holdings.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:33 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm at a university with one of these big academic libraries. However they're putting more and more books into a big concrete storage shed off-campus. You can't browse these books and it often takes a couple days to obtain them via request.

Perchance the Harvard Depository -- subject of this MeFi FPP?
posted by ericb at 8:40 PM on October 11, 2010


The people of the Twin Cities have double access to large libraries--if you live in the metro area and have a library card you can register to use your card at the Hennepin County Library, and if you have a card from anywhere in the state you can use interlibrary loan to request circulating items from the University of Minnesota (and the rest of the state's linked public and private libraries.) I usually get U of M ILL books within a week of request.
posted by Electric Elf at 8:48 PM on October 11, 2010


books into a big concrete storage shed off-campus.

The standard model. Remove the least used books and rig them up to robotic shelving in a giant warehouse out in the country where real-estate is cheap and have a van that shuttles requests back and forth to the main library once or twice a day. It's the cheapest way to handle the vast volume of material being published without buying up blocks of downtown real-estate. Sadly though it kills browsing, which is one of the most rewarding ways to approach books.
posted by stbalbach at 8:53 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm at a university with one of these big academic libraries. However they're putting more and more books into a big concrete storage shed off-campus.

Well, I hope it's not just a big concrete storage shed (which would rule out the Harvard Depository, ericb) -- and it's a little hard to sympathize with the complaint that "my university's library collection is so big they have to store some books off-site". But the decisions universities make about what deserves more space on campus (administrative offices) and what doesn't (books) are worth reviewing from time to time, I'll agree.
posted by uosuaq at 8:55 PM on October 11, 2010


Perchance the Harvard Depository. No; rather, it's this one (or, interior). What I'll never understand is why, in the middle of millions of hectares of corn and soybeans, it wouldn't have been possible to build a browsable remote storage facility.

I suppose that the high shelves that make this non-browsable are also the reason that requests for items take so long to fill. With a setup like this, it's a big operation just to take something down from the shelf.
posted by washburn at 9:25 PM on October 11, 2010


How many books have been scanned into Google's hard drives? Wiki says 12 million books, but most of them are not available to the public due to copyright issues.
posted by eye of newt at 9:40 PM on October 11, 2010


How many books have been scanned into Google's hard drives?

And of those, how many have been properly scanned?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:03 AM on October 12, 2010


The library I work in is bigger than the library you work in.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:53 PM on October 15, 2010


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