Public Libraries Subject/type Book Distribution Before 1940

face of a prisoner

Shares of books by contemporary subject/type classifications in public libraries and in authoritative library book recommendations in the U.S. from 1700 to 1940.

Public libraries in the U.S. prior to 1940 had a subject/type distribution of books similar to prison libraries before 1940. Book classification was not standardized prior to the professionalization of librarians. Aggregate comparisons between the holdings of different libraries requires some common classification. A rough common classification scheme can be inferred from contemporary classification schemes. From 1700 to 1940 book classes diversified and the book distribution shifted away from overtly moral and religious books. Reflecting popular interest in novels, novels accounted for about a third of total book circulation for the New York Society library, 1847-1856. Because the educational value of reading fiction was suspect, authoritative recommendations of books for public libraries before 1940 put less weight on fiction.

Dataset sheets:

  • Bray’s libraries c. 1700: title counts by book class for Bray’s provincial libraries c. 1700
  • Emerson’s recommendations, 1832: list of authors / titles that Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended to his cousin, 1832
  • NY Society 1813-1856: title counts by classes of books in New York Society Library, 1813 to 1856
  • Apprentice 1820-1865: book distribution by classes of books for books held in Apprentices’ Library of New York City, 1820-1865
  • ALA 1893 catalog: volume shares and total price for books by class for the American Library Association (ALA) catalog for a model 5000 book public library in 1893
  • Library Primer 1899:Suggested book class distribution shares in Dana’s Library Primer, 1899
  • ALA 1904 catalog: ALA model catalog for 8000 title library, 1904, with book class distribution shares compared to the 1893 model catalog
  • ALA 1935: book class shares for the ALA book buying list, 1935
  • Minnesota 1937: Minnesota public library book circulation in 1937
  • midwest c. 1920: circulation of public library books about 1920

Related datasets:

Leave a comment (will be included in public domain license)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *