Johnson County, Indiana is located approximately half an hour south of Indianapolis. According to the Johnson County, Indiana Highlights, in 2011 there were approximately 141, 656 residents. Around 53 percent of the residents were between the ages of 25-64. The Johnson County Public Library (JCPL) system is responsible for serving this vast and growing population. The JCPL system is made up of four library branches, with one each in Trafalgar, Franklin, New Whiteland, and Greenwood. According to L. S. Kilbert (personal communication, April 20, 2012), in 2011 they had 77,648 registered library borrowers with a total (print) book circulation of 599, 855.
Since over 50% of the population is 25 years of age or older, adult reader’s booklists are important. The Johnson County public library system does not have many nonfiction book lists for their adult readers. Therefore, when I asked the Adult Services Librarian at the White River branch what would be a good topic, she named many nonfiction book list ideas. True crime particular to Indiana was top on her list of nonfiction book list suggestions. She stated that there was a need for this particular booklist due to patron requests from patrons browsing the true crime section, and that this would help staff and patrons. They have done a display on the topic before, but do not have any kind of formal list created for it that shows all of the titles available within their four branch library system. Therefore, I decided that creating a nonfiction booklist and writing annotations for nonfiction books would provide me with more of a challenge, and take me out of my comfort zone more.
What is true crime, and how did it come about? According to the Reader’s Advisor Online database, true crime “originally developed during the Victorian era (latter half of the nineteenth century) when crimes were reported upon salaciously in newspapers and contemporary novels.” True crime is a popular sub-genre of nonfiction. As many crimes are often sensationalized in the media and in literature, this genre continues to attract increased readership.
True crime stories often connect to readers emotionally and intellectually. The genre can fulfill a dark human interest about crimes and criminals. It stories often provide an in-depth description of the crime scene as well as of the crime itself. In addition, occasionally true crime authors will give readers insight into the character and inner thought processes of the criminal behind the crime(s). Many titles will also detail police procedures and court proceedings. The details of the trials can fulfill an almost universal desire for justice for the victim(s). True crime books are generally sexually and violently graphic, present a dark or grim tone, and have suspenseful and disturbing plots. Titles in this genre include the preceding appeals, but true crime characters, plots, and subject matter can also be appealing to readers. Many true crime books discuss violent crimes such as murder, rape, child abuse, torture, and kidnapping, and are therefore not for the faint of heart.
Indiana true crime focuses on those stories detailing crimes and criminals specifically in Indiana. Many of these books recount some of the most notorious and horrific crimes that have taken place in Indiana. In addition to some of the general appeals of true crime, Indiana true crime stories can appeal to a reader’s desire for familiar settings, people, and historical periods. One particular title: In the eyes of the law: The true story of love, betrayal, murder, fame, and justice in 1950’s America, provides great detail of what life was like in and around Indianapolis in the 1950’s. This may be appealing both to people who grew up during that time, and to people who are simply interested in learning about that particular time period.
In addition to true crime, I also included some fiction and Audio-visual materials on the topic of Indiana crime. These items have many of the same appeals, but they also often have more narrative elements, suspense, and mystery. Many of the fiction titles however, are based on real crimes and criminals. Therefore, while they may not be completely fact-based, they are still a viable option for readers interested in learning more about a particular crime or criminal.
The next step was creating the list. Originally, I had a difficult time coming up with twenty different titles of Indiana true crime stories. This is part of the reason why I decided to include fiction to help expand the list, and increase the options for patrons interested in this nonfiction genre. I began with some general searches such as “Indiana true crime,” as well as some basic subject searches “Murder –Indiana. The second subject search returned the most results, with sixteen different titles. Some other subject searches included: Crime –Indiana, Criminals –Indiana, Serial Murder Investigation –Indiana, Rape –Indiana, and Abuse –Indiana. I also did some general web searching on Google, and discovered other crimes and criminals around Indiana as well as some other possible titles for my list. This was how I later discovered the book: True crime: An American anthology, which features a piece on Belle Gunness, a serial killer from LaPorte, Indiana. My final list has 22 different titles on it, with seventeen non-fiction true crime titles, two fiction books, one audiobook, and 2 DVD’s. I used the Johnson County public library catalog as well as Good Reads, Amazon and other book-seller websites to obtain summaries and reviews of the titles that I included.
In addition to having difficulty locating Indiana true crime titles, I also ran into some other obstacles while creating my booklist. An issue came up regarding the validity and appropriateness of two of the titles available. There are two books that were self-published by a woman who had just gotten her private investigators license to “investigate” an unsolved murder in Franklin. The story is about a young woman and her ten-year-old stepson who was found murdered in their home in a quiet subdivision in Franklin in 2006. No arrests or information on any legitimate leads has been made public, but this particular author claims to know who the killer is and exactly what happened. These are poorly written books with many parts appearing as the author promoting herself and her private investigator business. After looking these books over, I was ready to remove them from my booklist. However, they are about a very local and well-known crime and the Franklin branch library had duplicate copies of both titles. The librarian later discovered these titles in his search, and told me that I could add them. I voiced my concerns about the books, but he said that they do in fact circulate frequently so he asked me to add them back in. I added these two titles back to my list, but as I was reviewing my brochure, I discovered that one of my titles was no longer in their catalog. I inquired about this title and was told that it was discarded due to damage, and that they likely would not replace this title based on its age. I went ahead and removed this title since it is not likely that they will make this title available to JCPL patrons again.
Creating the booklist did take a lot of work. Due to the limited number of Indiana true crime titles available though, I had to add nearly every title that I found. I got positive feedback regarding my final product (the brochure) that I created. The librarians liked the layout and the graphics that I added to my brochure, which is not something that their other brochures have.
Indiana Department of Workforce Development. (2011). Johnson County, IN. Highlights. County Highlights. Retrieved from http://hoosierdata.in.gov/highlights/pdf/allitems/highlights_allitems_18081.pdf
Libraries Unlimited. (2006). Definition: True Crime. The Reader’s Advisor Online. Retrieved from http://www.readersadvisoronline.com/lu/RAdescribe?topic=66147