The most checked-out physical books at the Potrero Hill library for adults and teenagers are memoirs and older titles, according to Rachel Bradshaw, the branch’s manager. Top of the list for adults this year is Prince Harry’s memoir Spare.
“I can’t tell you how many copies San Francisco Public Library has purchased for all of our branches, but it’s astronomical,” Bradshaw said.
The two most popular titles for 2022 wereMichelle Zauner’s memoir Crying in H Mart, and Michelle Obama’s The Light We Carry. Obama’s first book also circulates well, according to Bradshaw.
Teenagers are checking out older titles, surprising given that materials tend to lose relevancy much quicker for younger populations, Bradshaw said. A book consistently demanded is Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus, a nonfiction title published in 2017 about race, class, gender, crime, and punishment that tells the true story of an agender teen who is set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland.
The most common fiction teens are reading is Demon Slayer, a 23-volume manga series that became a television show on Adult Swim.
“There are some people who want to read the book after they see the TV show and some who want to read the book first,” Bradshaw said as a potential explanation for Demon Slayer’s popularity.
Grownups also like to read books with a movie or TV show tie-in, which could be why Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, published in 2017, is circulating well among adults. The book has been adapted into a drama series on AppleTV.
While some reading choices are unsurprising, others threw Bradshaw for a loop, including the second-most circulated book for younger readers: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
“That was surprising to me, especially given the controversy surrounding the author,” Bradshaw said, “But I think Millennial and Gen X parents want to introduce their kids to a world that was important for them. And kids want to read long fantasy books and get lost in fiction.”
Potrero Hill Library has averaged 125 new card members a month over the last six months. Many of the branch’s 12,750 active cardholders – people who have used their library card in the last four years – pop in, grab items placed on hold, and checkout. They tend to come in on their lunch break or before going home from work. Some arrive with children in tow.
“Once or twice a week as part of a routine, we see toddlers come in with their caregivers,” Bradshaw said. “We watch them grow up. We see them get their first library card, no longer ask for board books but the easy readers, and the library becomes a cornerstone for some of them.”
Prior to the pandemic, many young library users attended Daniel Webster, Starr King, or an independent elementary school in the neighborhood. Branch staff are unaware as to whether this trend continues.
Adults regularly browse the shelves. Starting in August 2022, the library received 5,300 visits a month, an increase from June 2022 when the branch had roughly 4,800 callers. In contrast, in June 2021 there were only 1,500 visitors.
The rise in library visitation could be because people are more comfortable attending events, such as weekly story time for babies every Tuesday and movie screenings for teens. For adults, at the end of February the branch held a beginner’s line dancing program, no cowboy boots required.
Despite the jump in guests, a core group of cardholders prefers e-resources; e- and audiobooks, movies, and the like. The popularity of those materials has increased by 33 percent since 2019, which could be due to the pandemic, a return to commuting, or patrons moving from the Hill and thus only being able to use digital resources.
The branch offers a Seed Library. Staff put together edible seed packets containing kernels – carrots and tomatoes – a poem, playlists, and information about how to take care of oneself and the planet.
“It’s a tiny experience all in one,” Bradshaw said. “You don’t need a library card. We just ask that if you pick up packets you bring seeds back to restock the supply after harvesting.”
For more information on library programs, visit https://sfpl.org/locations/potrero.