Image from the What Middletown Read website

What Middletown Read: database of historic public library circulation statistics

Image from the What Middletown Read website

Ever wondered what people in the 1890s were checking out and reading from their local public libraries? Well thanks to the What Middletown Read project, you can now go online and find out who was visiting the Muncie, Indiana Public Library and what they were reading in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

During Muncie Public Library’s 2003 renovation of its Carnegie library, built in 1904, a Ball State University professor came across a collection of dusty ledgers dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These ledgers turned out to be public library circulation records covering a period from about November 1891 to December 1902. These circ records contain an interesting collection of historic information, such as details about the library’s holdings, patrons’ names, and titles of books that were checked out. It’s a veritable public library time capsule and it sheds a little light on the Muncie, Indiana community and its reading habits.

Through a collaboration of the Muncie Public Library, Ball State University’s Center for Middletown Studies, and the Ball State University Library, this information has been made available to the general public as a fully searchable online database. Users can browse this little piece of history by searching by patron name, book title, or transaction type.

Here is a link to a Slate.com story about the historical database.

You can read more about the project and browse the database by visiting the What Middletown Read website.

 

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