Top Academic Titles of 2020

January 28, 2021

We recently did a blog post on the Top Syndetics Unbound Titles of 2020, covering what public-library patrons were searching for and finding in 2020. But what about academic libraries? This data was aggregated across libraries using Syndetics Unbound worldwide.

The picture is more complicated in academic libraries than public libraries. First, academic libraries differ from each other more than public ones do. Titles that head the list month after month at technical colleges may not even appear at a law or divinity library. Second, academic library usage is often spread out across larger collections and is less hit-driven. Although books like Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, Jeanine Cummins’ _American Dirt, and _Michelle Obama’s Becoming—top books on the public list—appear on the academic list too, they do so lower, and far lower as a percentage of all academic-library searches.

The Ranking

In place of hot fiction titles, core reference and textbooks dominate. Not only are the Publication Manual of the APA and the DSM-V first and second, but _they were first and second in every month of 2020! _

  1. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
  2. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5
  3. Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler
  4. Research Methods for Business Students by Mark N.K. Saunders
  5. Social Research Methods by Alan Bryman
  6. The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff
  7. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by Project Management Institute
  8. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches by John W. Cresswell
  9. Pharmacology by H. P. Rang
  10. The Study Skills Handbook by Stella Cottrell
  11. Case Study Research: Design and Methods by Robert K. Yin
  12. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
  13. Marketing Management by Philip Kotler
  14. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences by James D. Wright
  15. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  16. Leadership: Theory and Practice by Peter G. Northouse
  17. Research Methods in Education by Louis Cohen
  18. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  19. Doing Your Research Project by Judith Bell
  20. Business Research Methods by Alan Bryman
  21. Molecular Biology of the Cell by Bruce Alberts
  22. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research by Norman K. Denzin
  23. Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Stuart J. Russell
  24. Macroeconomics by Olivier Blanchard
  25. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  26. Operations Management by Nigel Slack
  27. Orientalism by Edward W. Said
  28. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder
  29. Exploring Strategy by Gerry Johnson
  30. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault

Two Waves of Anti-Racism Books

As in public libraries, books about race, policing and criminal justice jumped enormously in searches following the George Floyd protests, which began on May 26 in reaction to the homicide of George Floyd at the hands of police.

Unlike public libraries, however, academic libraries saw a second spike in searches as the Fall semester began and these books made their way into many syllabi. This was not just absolute usage numbers, which increase in the Fall. The chart below shows the percent of searches.

The books referenced are:

  • The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

How Do We Know?

This data was collected by Syndetics Unbound. The search data is fully anonymized the day it is collected. As the Coronavirus lockdowns caused a significant drop in catalog searches, and Syndetics Unbound added new libraries continuously throughout the year, we levelled the playing field by treating all months as equal in size.