What Middletown Read

The What Middle Town Read Project is a searchable database based on the records of the Muncie (Indiana) Public Library from November 5, 1891 to December 3, 1902.  The database includes records of all the books that were checked out during this time period.

The data used for this project was compiled based on ledgers found by Professor Frank Felsenstein of Ball State University.  These ledgers are essentially circulation records and contain lists all of its patrons, books, and circulation transactions from 1891to 1902.

Users can search the circulation records by patron name, book title, book, author, subjects, and transaction date.  Under the patron field is is also possible to search by patron birthplace, sex, race, material status, and occupation.  Results also include supplemental patron data from the city directory and census information.

This is a great resource and work has already been done to use this data set to look at larger social trends. 
The article “This Book is 199 Years Overdue: The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago” by John Poltz examines some of the historical implications of the Middle Town Read data.

I’m curious if any other libraries have made their old circulation records available and searchable online.

Pest Control and Your Family Photos

Mice, silverfish, cockroaches, and a whole pile of other creepy crawlies can do serious damage to your collection of photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and family memorabilia.  This damage can take the form of nesting, eating, and burrowing in your paper based materials.

Most libraries and archives maintain stringent Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems to protect their holdings from unwanted pests.  These IPM systems are often far too time consuming and expensive for the average person to undertake.  So what can you do to protect your family’s history?


  • The majority of pests like dark damp places.  Whenever possible avoid storing items in basements, garages, crawlspaces, or attics.
  • If you know where pests may be entering your house, eg. poorly sealed windows or doors, block off the entry route. 
  • When practical store items in sealed containers NOT cardboard boxes that will deteriorate when wet and can easily be entered by most pests. 

Eliminating Pests

  • Preventative action is better than reactive action, but where necessary there are methods you can take to try and eliminate pests. The method you choose will also depend on what type of pest is in your collection and how comfortable you are with each pest control method.
    • React at the first signs of pests – droppings or signs of nesting.  Do not wait for the problem to get worse.
    • Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has a great chart (page 1 and page 2) that outlines which type of control method is applicable to each pest type.
    • CCI’s full pest management guidelines can be seen here.

What other methods have you used to protect your family’s photographs and documents?

Full Disclosure: This post may have been inspired by encountering my cat playing with a mouse in my living room this morning.

The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec

A recent Ideas episode on CBC radio examined the history of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Established in 1824, by the Earl of Dalhousie, the society is the oldest historic society in Canada. In addition to the age of the society, the society is historically significant based on its original status as an English strong hold, the library it houses, the built heritage of the society’s building, it’s role in establishing the National Archives of Canada, and the more recent development of the Morrin Centre.

The Society is located on a site with a diverse history. From 1712-1808 the location was home to the Redoubt Royal, which was a military barracks and eventually a holding place for prisoners of war. The current building was built between 1808 and 1813 and served as the Quebec city jail until 1867. The jail was the site of the last public hanging in Quebec. Following the closure of the jail the building was re-purposed by Morrin College. In 1868 the Literary and Historical Society moved into this building.

Currently, the Society’s library collection is open to the public. However, borrowing privileges are restricted to society members. The library collection is unique as despite being located in a predominately French area the library specializes in preserving the city’s English language heritage and history.

The podcast of this Ideas episode is well worth a listen as it highlights some of the unique history surrounding the society.

Contrary to popular belief librarians do know how to party

Today’s #reverb10 prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

OLA Super Conference 2010 was the best work related gathering in 2010. This conference was the first library focused conference I attended. The level of enthusiasm, the roar of the vendor floor, the sessions I attended, and copious amounts of good food and good company made this the work related gathering of 2010.

Highlights of the conference included:
-Presenting with OurOntario on collaboration and community building withing the Community Digitization Project.
-Reuniting with OurOntario staff for the first time in six months.
-Seeing the Knowledge Ontario staff in action on the vendors’ floor
-The Extraordinary Canadians authors session.
-Learning more about the different branches of the library field.

I also had the opportunity to see the Rain Tribute to the Beatles while in Toronto for the OLA conference. That combined with the OLA conference made for a great week.

Connecting with Heritage and Beyond

Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

In 2010 I discovered and further explored a number of communities:
-This year through twitter I became more connected with heritage professionals. This sense of connectedness was a huge help when I moved to a part of Northern Ontario without knowing anyone in the heritage field. My daily interactions online helped remind me that there are lots of people passionate about history and heritage out there.
-In 2010 I also was exposed to the public library community when working with OurOntario on their Community Digitization Project. I worked with a number of small public library, participated in the OLA Super Conference, and the OLS-North conference. The enthusiasm, kindness, and collaboration in the library community made my experience a memorable one.

Looking forward:
-I have started to explore my new found local community. Despite the fact that the town and surrounding area is home to only slightly more than one thousand people I’m constantly surprised by the number of activities and choices in the area. I hope to connect with more people in this community in 2011.
-I also hope to further connect and learn from the Aboriginal community in the area. These connections occur naturally at my work but I hope to learn from the community on a level above the level required by my job.

OLA Conference: Extraordinary Canadians

As part of the Ontario Library Association’s annual conference I attended the opening plenary on “Extraordinary Canadians.” This panel featured John Ralston Saul, Adrienne Clarkson, Jane Urquhart, Nino Ricci, and Mark Kingwell. All five of these individuals have contributed to the Extraordinary Canadians biography series. This series examines the lives of people who have helped shape Canada in the 20th Century. All the books in this series were written by great Canadian authors, and each biography is under 200 pages. The idea being that biography should be readable, accessible to the general public, and encourage an interest in Canada’s history. I couldn’t agree more with the need for history to be more accessible, and think that this series is an interesting approach to making history more tangible.

It was interesting to see Canada’s history and the biography genre discussed from a literary standpoint. Despite the literature based nature of the discussion a number of interesting questions regarding the interpretation of history were raised. In particular, I found the question of silence’s role in literature and history intriguing. It was suggested that both history and literature need to be engaging to the reader. How the reader interprets the written word can be far more significant than the written word itself. I would tend to agree. Once a work is published an author’s intentions lose some importance, and the readers’ interpretation becomes an entirely new dimension to the work.

I was also very surprised by panel’s discussion of Innis‘ interpretation of Canadian history. It was suggested that Innis’ theory regarding Canada as an experiment in communication technology is something which can be seen throughout the lives of almost all extraordinary Canadians. Additionally, it was argued hat the notion of “the word” is something which is prominent in the lives of all Canadian greats, and that the nature of Canada demands that people use words in a spacial and creative way. Some of the finner points of Innis’ work were glossed over in this discussion. However, it was still interesting to see the inclusion of historical theory in the panel.

Overall, this was a great way to start the OLA conference in my mind. The discussion raised a lot of interesting questions about the importance of audience interaction and the role which history plays in society.