Looking at interlibrary loan, 2017 edition


Did you catch all of the 2017 end-of-year book lists? Probably the most noteworthy are The New York Times best sellers lists. Barnes and Noble publishes one, as does Publishers Weekly. Amazon publishes a most purchased books list as well, which gets a lot of attention.

As you know, we at OCLC have a different list—the books that are the most shared, as measured by interlibrary loan requests! Last year, our resource sharing systems handled more than 7 million ILL requests from all over the world.

We’ve been gathering this data for many years and publishing it here for the past two years. It’s always interesting to see what books made the top ten ILL list and what, if any, broader observations we can make. We debuted our ILL “best sellers list” for 2017 last week at the OCLC Resource Sharing Conference with the resource sharing community, who always enjoy guessing which work made the top spot.

Well, in 2017, ILL requests once again were closely aligned with current events—what was taking place in the news and popular culture.* Here are latest themes in interlibrary loan based on our data.

The top ten ILL’d titles for 2017

(Shown in order, 1–10. Click to see the book in WorldCat.org.)

Hillbilly Elegydeep learninga gentleman in moscowamancalledoveiris and lily book one

margin_of_safetymilk and honeythe subtle art of not giving a f_ckcrackingthecodewhenbreathbecomesair

Current events top the list

If you recall from last year’s post, the theme was how closely aligned ILL was with current events. This continued in 2017. The top ten books reflected the US political climate and the historic rise of the US stock market.

The top book requested by almost a 2-1 margin was the provocative Hillbilly Elegy, the same book that topped the list last year. Published in June 2016, this book was firmly entrenched for 17 months as the top requested book in our system.

The popularity and interest in this book, in which a Yale Law School graduate examines working class struggles, is evident in other lists as well. Hillbilly Elegy was one of the top five checked out books at the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library. It also was an Amazon best seller in 2017 and had been on The New York Times best sellers list for 70 weeks at the end of 2017.

In addition to the political climate, as the US stock market hit record highs for much of the year, it appears that many people were looking to lock in gains in this rising market. The sixth most requested title was Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor, making the list for the first time.

Find out which book grabbed the #1 spot on both the 2016 and (just released!) 2017 lists for “Top Interlibrary Loan Titles” of the year. Click To Tweet

Five other books made it to the OCLC list for the first time as well: Deep Learning, A Gentleman in Moscow, Iris and Lilly, Milk and Honey, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Some observations

Other than that, here is what we observed.

  • Poetry. A book of poetry made it to the list for the first time: Milk and Honey.
  • Movie tie-ins. A recurring trend every year, the movie tie-in for 2017 was A Man Called Ove. It was announced in September that this will be remade for the US after a highly successful run in Sweden.
  • TV series. The television rights to the novel A Gentleman in Moscow were purchased in August by eOne. Will the news of a TV series keep the book on the list for next year?
  • Catch the code. Two books on computer programming and machine intelligence were on the list: Deep Learning and Cracking the Coding Interview, which may represent the growing conversation about technology and artificial intelligence.
  • New mix. The list had more nonfiction than fiction titles for the first time.
  • No self-published or young adult titles. For the second straight year, there were no self-published or YA titles. Both genres were on the list from 2010 to 2015.
  • Popular titles. There is overlap between our ILL list and the top books on The New York Times best sellers list. All the novels on the list are New York Times best sellers. No novel spent more time on the 2017 hardcover fiction list than A Gentleman in Moscow. And Milk and Honey spent 77 weeks on The New York Times Trade Paperback Best-Seller List over the last two years.
  • Repeats. In addition to Hillbilly Elegy, the repeats from 2016 were: A Man Called Ove, Cracking the Coding Interview, and When Breath Become Air.

Below are some additional ILL lists. What interesting numbers and trends in ILL do you see? Let us know on Twitter with #OCLCnext.

* 93% of the libraries and 98% of the total borrows are from US libraries.

Top five ILL titles by library type


  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  2. A Man Called Ove: A Novel
  3. A Gentleman in Moscow
  4. Iris and Lilly: Book One
  5. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry


  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  2. Deep Learning
  3. Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions
  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
  5. Milk and Honey

Academic Research

  1. Deep Learning
  2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  3. Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions
  4. Quantitative Social Science: An Introduction
  5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Community or Junior Colleges

  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  2. Skeleton Man
  3. A Man Called Ove: A Novel
  4. Milk and Honey
  5. Hidden Figures


  1. Tennessee Code Annotated
  2. Hart and Wechsler’s the Federal Courts and the Federal System
  3. Constitutional Law–Principles and Policies
  4. Understanding Criminal Law
  5. Food and Drug Law and Regulation


  1. Knee Arthroplasty
  2. Health Policy Issues: An Economic Perspective
  3. Dental Hygiene: Theory and Practice
  4. Lehne’s Pharmacology for Nursing Care
  5. Policies and Procedures for Infusion Therapy


  1. Online Technical Meeting Papers
  2. Science of Synthesis: Houben-Weyl Methods of Molecular Transformations
  3. Encyclopedia of Sociology
  4. Certified OpenStack Administrator Study Guide
  5. Applied OpenStack Design Patterns : Design Solutions for Production-Ready Infrastructure with OpenStack Components


  1. Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity
  2. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology
  3. Athanasius Werke
  4. Sensitivity Towards Outsiders: Exploring the Dynamic Relationship Between Mission and Ethics in the New Testament and Early Christianity
  5. Jesus in the World’s Faiths: Leading Thinkers from Five Religions Reflect on His Meaning


  1. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
  2. Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World
  3. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  4. Deep Learning
  5. A Man Called Ove: A Novel