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.