Dan Brown’s books continue to be as hard to borrow as they are easy to read.

Figures from the Toronto Public Library for 2009 confirm what every would-be reader of The Lost Symbol already knew: The city’s lovers of free books had Freemasons on their mind. In the highest-demand year ever, no book was demanded more than Brown’s tale of Washington intrigue.

Library users checked out more than 31 million items (books, magazines, DVDs and other materials), up five per cent from the year before. Actual visits to the library’s 99 branches jumped by 8.5 per cent, to 17.5 million.

Library officials credited several factors, including the recession, for the increases. Several factors made the library an attractive destination at this time, more readers turned to free books rather than buying new, and library increased resources to job seekers and free wireless Internet in all branches.

A more welcoming environment including permitting patrons to drink coffee or eat snacks in the library is another factor.