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'Go Set A Watchman' Breaks Westchester Library System 'Holds' Record

Westchester Library System officials report record high holds on Harper Lee's "Go Set A Watchman" since its release July 13. Demand is high in every format of the book offered at Westchester's 38 public libraries, officials said Tuesday.
Westchester Library System officials report record high holds on Harper Lee's "Go Set A Watchman" since its release July 13. Demand is high in every format of the book offered at Westchester's 38 public libraries, officials said Tuesday. Photo Credit: Contributed

This story has been updated.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- "Go Set A Watchman,'' Harper Lee's original version of her bestselling book "To Kill A Mockingbird" has broken all-time records for most holds by public readers, according to the Westchester Library System.

On Tuesday, the county's system, which includes 38 member libraries, reported 602 holds on its 238 hardcover and paperback copies of "Watchman."

There were 136 holds on 40 large print copies of "Go Set A Watchman."

There were 49 holds on 27 CD versions of "Watchman," and 80 holds on 14 eAudiobook formats for MP3 players and OverDrive Listen.

Even more eye-opening to Westchester Library System (WLS) administrators were Tuesday's 595 holds on the eBook versions, an all-time high that could lead to a reassessment of library user patterns and requests. (Those formats can be read using Amazon Kindle, OverDrive Read and Adobe EPub.)

Hui Sheng, manager of eContent and Resource Sharing, said this is the highest number of holds on any public library book across all formats since she began working for the Westchester Library System in 1997.

The last most popular public library title? "Fifty Shades of Grey,'' the erotic romance novel, and first installment of the trilogy by British author E.L. James.

Sheng recalls asking, "What is this book?" following the 2011 release of "Fifty Shades" because so many local library patrons were requesting it. That book's instant popularity spurred the library system to circulate 107 print copies, 103 DVD versions and 47 eBooks countywide, Sheng said.

Tuesday, there were no holds on the original "Fifty Shades," and only seven copies checked out countywide. "Either people already read it, or they are not interested,'' she said. (Sheng noted that about 50 print copies of "Fifty Shades" were never returned or reported lost since then.)

The original draft of "Go Set A Watchman," which was recently discovered, was written in the 1950s. It follows the adult Scout, the main character in Lee’s bestselling book “To Kill A Mockingbird.” More than 1 million copies of "Watchman" were sold at bookstores in the opening week of its July 13 release.

"Watchman" has generated widespread controversy. Some wonder whether the 89-year-old Lee, who has vision and hearing problems, even wanted the lightly edited draft to be published.

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