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Thursday, December 16, 2010

San Francisco Library Doesn't Know How Many Books it Has

Posted By on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 12:10 AM

click to enlarge A countless number of books. Literally. - HTTP://WWW.THEDCTRAVELER.COM

After calculating it might take us 11 years to get a book on hold, we queried the San Francisco Public Library regarding what book it had the most copies of.

We were told that this intuitive question would require much analysis, as the "Millennium" system the library uses to keep track of

its wares doesn't simply allow one to conjure up some manner of

spreadsheet or data file and rank the books in the library's possession

in order of copies owned.

Well, the analysis has been done. And the answer to our question is: No one knows. What's more, the library isn't sure how many books and other items it has, period.

Well, what the hell?

Library spokeswoman Michelle Jeffers explains that "Millennium" is a "clunky system that works great for circulation but it's hard to pull out metrics that are newsworthy."

So while it's easy to calculate how many "titles" the library has -- more than 1 million -- there is no way to determine how many "items" it has. Meaning no one is sure how many copies of those 1 million titles there are. In short -- no one knows how many books the library owns.

One tabulation the library is able to perform with ease is to rank books by how many copies were added to the collection this year. The winner? As predicted, it was One City One Book entry Zeitoun with 466 copies. No. 2 was Steieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (288 copies) and No. 3 is Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (279 copies).

Good to know. But not as interesting as not knowing how many books you've got.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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