Collections of Distinction:
Ice Cream Parlors, Gandy Dancers, Ragga and More . . .


This grouping of preeminent collections represents just a sample of the unique resources available in public libraries. These rich and varied collections include a mix of books, pamphlets, manuals, photographs, music and more. The public libraries listed have the distinction of holding the greatest number of titles in WorldCat relates to these topics.

Ice Cream Parlors

Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library has the largest collection of materials in WorldCat related to ice cream parlors. Many of these materials are in the form of historic photographs, part of LAPL’s collection of more than 2 million photographs. Many of these images feature Currie’s Ice Cream parlors, whose "mile-high cone" billboards were an iconic part of Southern California skyline from the 1930s to the 1980s. Some have claimed that Hollywood legend Lana Turner was "discovered” at a Currie’s ice cream counter – whether or not that’s true, Tinseltown’s glamorous ice cream connections go right back to the start of the talkies, with Thelma Todd, AKA the Ice Cream Blonde.

Dip into ice cream parlors at the Los Angeles Public Library


About the image: Employees and customers at a Currie's Ice Cream Parlor, 1946. (Lucille Stewart Collection - GPC_b12_f6_i20). Used with permission of Los Angeles Public Library.


Cleveland Public Library

The Cleveland Public Library holds the largest collection of materials in WorldCat on chess, originating from the donated personal library of Cleveland attorney (and chess devotee) John Griswold White. CPL’s Chess and Checkers Collections includes such treasures as a rare 1768 Italian translation of Edmond Hoyle’s An Essay Towards Making the Game of Chess Easily Learned, and historic photographs of American chess players and tournaments.

Make a move into Chess resources at the Cleveland Public Library


About the image: American Chess Congress 1857. Available from the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery.1


Milwaukee Public Library

The Milwaukee Public Library has the largest collection in WorldCat of materials related to shipwrecks. The Great Lakes Marine Collection, a joint collection of MPL and the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, contains historical records on more than 10,000 Great Lakes vessels, including their origins, physical characteristics, and in some cases, their tragic ends. The collection includes a file on the Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975 – the largest ship ever to sink on the Great Lakes. The sinking was later immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

Find more shipwreck resources at the Milwaukee Public Library


About the image: Edmund Fitzgerald in MacArthur Lock (Photo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District) CC BY-SA 2.0,_1958)#mediaviewer/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald_in_MacArthur_Lock.jpg

Russian Detective Stories

Booklyn Public Library

The Brooklyn Public Library holds the largest collection in WorldCat of Russian detective stories. Beyond the classic works of contemporary crime fiction author Boris Akunin, whose works have been translated into many languages, you can check out a wide variety of popular detective novels by Darya Dontsova, Marina Serova or Nikolai Leonov – just the thing to bring a little chill into your end-of-summer reading list.

Investigate Russian detective stories at the Brooklyn Public Library


About the image: Brighton Beach Hotel. Library of Congress.

"Altered" Books

Portland Public Library

The Portland Public Library holds the singular collection of “altered books”, with more than a hundred creations produced in partnership with the Maine College of Art in 2005. An altered book is a book that has been transformed into a piece of art by changing its physical form. A key feature of altered books is that they begin life as a normal book for reading, and are only later transformed into a work of art. According to a contemporary write-up in the New York Times, items from the collection were even available for inter-library loan!

Explore altered books in the Portland Public Library.


About the image: Image of "Billy Goat the Counselor" (Altered Book - by Sachiyo Yoshida - 2005), Copyright Portland Public Library. Used with permission.

Gandy Dancers

Denver Public Library

The Denver Public Library is home to the largest single collection in WorldCat devoted to narrow gauge railroads, where you can learn all about the art of the gandy dancer. The growth of railway networks in the late nineteenth century accelerated urban development across the western United States. The Denver Public Library’s Digital Collections include more than twenty thousand historic railroad photographs, including an archive dedicated to the famous narrow gauge railway lines like the Denver and Rio Grande Western that once ferried passengers and coal across the mountains of the southwest.

Explore more narrow gauge railroad resources at the Denver Public Library


About the image: Front cover of Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad passenger timetable for 1960.

Kentucky Derby

Lexington Public Library

The Lexington Public Library is home to the single largest collection in WorldCat related to the Kentucky Derby. In addition to popular histories, race-themed fiction, and pop-up books for kids, the library collection includes official race programs and souvenir publications. You can even find rare lantern slides of Kentucky thoroughbreds, ca. 1900-1915.

Find Kentucky Derby resources at the Lexington Public Library


About the image: By Universal Film Manufacturing Company (Universal Weekly (1922) at the Internet Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Detroit Public Library

The Detroit Public Library is home to the National Automotive History Collection, a historical collections of auto repair manuals. Among this collections 600,000+ processed items are more than 350,000 technical and descriptive items that illuminate the styling, detail, specifications, and restoration of the automobile, including the largest number of titles cataloged in WorldCat related specifically to truck maintenance and repair.

Find more automotive history resources at the Detroit Public Library


About the image: William Doud Packard driving Packard number two. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection and used with permission.

Indianapolis Speedway

Indianapolis Public Library

The Indianapolis Public Library holds the largest collection of materials in WorldCat related to the Indianapolis Speedway Race, better known as the Indy 500. The Indy PL’s collection includes official race programs and yearbooks, digitized newspaper collections that put the race in historical context, and documentation of Indy-themed toy cars and board games.

Find more Indy 500 resources at the Indianapolis Public Library


About the image: Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Otis Lithograph Co., 1909 (restored by Adam Cuerton). Public Domain


Edmonton Public Library

The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is home to the single largest collection of titles related to ragga, a distinctive sub-genre of Jamaican reggae music that features electronic backing and sampling akin to hip-hop. EPL, recently named 2014 Library of the Year, has a strong collection of ragga soundtracks, many of which are not held by any other library in WorldCat.

Check out more ragga resources at the Edmonton Public Library


About the image: Cariwest Parade Exuberant Dancer. (Photograph by Dale C) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


How we produced this list: We used FAST subject headings to identify topics for which public libraries have particularly strong holdings in WorldCat. We then selected ten public libraries in North America that hold the greatest number of related titles in WorldCat. For more on how these FAST “centers” are produced, read this blog entry by Thom Hickey, OCLC’s Chief Research Scientist.

Here’s a list of the FAST subject headings we used, including appropriate links to the searchFAST user interface:

Ice cream parlors
Russian detective and mystery stories
Altered books
Narrow gauge railroads
Kentucky Derby
Truck Maintenance and repair
Indianapolis Speedway Race
Ragga (Music)

WorldCat is a set of databases that together comprise the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. WorldCat data is contributed, maintained and shared by libraries around the world. It is managed and enhanced by OCLC. WorldCat data supports a range of OCLC and partner services, driving efficiency in library management, improving discovery of library collections and increasing visibility of libraries on the web.

At OCLC Research, we're exploring records and mining WorldCat data to highlight interesting and different views of the world's library collections each month. Be sure to check out our "What in the WorldCat?" page often to see what we come up with next.

Image info

^1. Usage of Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery Images:
Cleveland Public Library neither grants nor denies permission to publish photographs or images from its collection, including those in the Digital Gallery. Unless otherwise stated, the Library believes that the images in the Digital Gallery are in the Public Domain, although the Library makes no representations regarding the copyright of any item in the Digital Gallery. The Library is not responsible if you choose to use any Digital Gallery image(s) in your work. Please credit the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery as the source of any image(s) used. If you have additional questions about high scan images or anything else, please contact the Photoduplication Office at 216-623-2901, or by email at