What Middletown Read: database of historic public library circulation statistics

Circulation statistics from the Muncie Public Library. Image courtesy of “What Middletown Read,” Ball State University.

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.


LA Times: Shepard Fairey, et al, brighten West Hollywood Public Library

A little bit of good news about public libraries coming out of West Hollywood today. WH will be opening a new public library in October this year and a group of artists are creating street art-style murals for the building. The artists include Shepard Fairey–he of the Obama “Hope” poster and the ubiquitous Andre the Giant “Obey” stickers– and Retna and Kenny Scharf. Fairey’s assistants included Nic Bowers, Dan Flores, Jason Filipow, Kyle Oldoerp, as well as several interns.

Fairey also wins Citizen of the Day (an award I just made up) because, as he notes on his website: “Calm down taxpayers…I was not paid to do the mural and paid for my own supplies and labor.” Donating your time and energies for the public library. Good job citizen!

Read the LA Times article here: Shepard Fairey, street artists brighten West Hollywood library – latimes.com.

Visit Shepard Fairey’s website here to see more photos: http://obeygiant.com/.

NY Times: Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries

Image from the New York Times website.
Image from the New York Times website.

NYTimes.com: As L.S.S.I. Takes Over Libraries, Patrons Can’t Keep Quiet.

This is an interesting article from the New York Times about a private company from Maryland that has slowly taken over several public library systems in California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. The article discusses how the Santa Clarita, California City Council recently voted to allow Library Systems & Services (LSSI) to run the city’s library services.

This raises some disturbing management and public service issues when the CEO of LSSI states that “you can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement.” For someone who allegedly knows so much about operating a library, Mr. Pezzanite clearly has no idea what a librarian does and appears to have his head up his ass. This is a slap in the face to librarians who have a lifetime of education and public service under their belt, as well as to new library graduates all over the country who just finished their MLS/MLIS programs this summer. I encourage everyone reading this post to read the original NYT article (linked above) and find out whether their local public library system has any relationship to this company, represented arrogantly by Mr. Pezzanite.

Here’s a link to the LSSI website.

NPR: Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries

Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries : NPR.

Libraries and librarians are getting a lot of coverage lately. Some of the coverage, however, is bittersweet since city’s all over the country are having to cut back on library budgets and layoff skilled librarians. This hit home hard here in LA when the LAPL system recently laid off nearly 100 library staff members.

But as this NPR article notes, there is certainly a lot of love out there for libraries and librarians and there are a number of great  library-themed Internet memes making the rounds right now, from the Librarians Do Gaga video to the Study Like a Scholar, Scholar Old Spice parody video (below). The linked NPR article also mentions some I wasn’t aware of. Read and enjoy.