Public Library Statistics for the United States about 1856

 

Supporting data for Galbi, “Book Circulation Per U.S. Public Library User Since 1856.”

 

Source: Manual of public libraries, institutions, and societies, in the United States, and British provinces of North America. By William J. Rhees, chief clerk of the Smithsonian Institution.  (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & co., 1859).

 

Table 1

Public Library Statistics about 1856

 

State

Libraries

(size unknown)

Libraries

(size known)

Volumes

(in libraries

of known size)

Volumes Lent

per Library

Persons Borrowing per Library

Alabama

35

12

36,529

559

95

Arkansas

16

1

1,000

 

 

California

13

32

70,428

3,124

 

Connecticut

62

24

145,058

4,852

161

Delaware

5

10

31,085

3,250

118

Florida

11

4

9,687

 

 

Georgia

43

22

64,236

346

91

Illinois

55

35

58,501

2,423

238

Indiana

56

33

81,851

2,677

114

Iowa

24

8

11,431

500

 

Kentucky

49

38

112,293

4,680

491

Louisiana

25

15

58,680

200

 

Maine

74

40

114,112

3,316

159

Maryland

15

36

194,671

13,436

1,465

Massachusetts

175

119

632,800

8,772

861

Michigan

81

21

35,986

1,570

145

Minnesota

14

3

5,700

 

 

Mississippi

32

12

25,323

 

 

Missouri

38

24

69,509

6,215

442

New Hampshire

41

42

84,915

9,820

300

New Jersey

31

24

89,520

5,220

244

New York

119

284

750,421

12,232

443

North Carolina

27

11

36,344

719

78

Ohio

58

82

212,642

4,225

294

Pennsylvania

209

110

467,716

5,918

408

Rhode Island

17

64

154,842

7,815

791

South Carolina

32

20

106,080

1,670

110

Tennessee

48

27

94,251

616

86

Texas

42

4

3,050

300

 

Vermont

47

13

32,800

631

94

Virginia

40

47

142,767

2,406

244

Wisconsin

25

42

59,600

1,629

126

District of Columbia

16

31

272,835

 

 

Kansas

3

1

7,000

 

 

Nebraska

4

1

800

 

 

New Mexico

1

 

 

 

 

Oregon

10

4

2,051

 

 

Washington

2

2

4,352

 

 

Total

1,595

1,298

4,280,866

 

 

Source: Rhees (1859), combined from tables, pp. xxvi, xxviii.

 

 

Table 2

Universe of U.S. Public Libraries about 1856

 

Category

Number

Volumes

Average Volumes per Library

libraries with volumes reported

1,297

4,220,686

3,254

libraries with volumes estimates

1,593

500,000

314

libraries of common schools

18,000

2,000,000

111

libraries of Sunday schools

30,000

6,000,000

200

sum

50,890

12,720,686

250

Source: Rhees (1989), p. xxviii, last column calculated.

 

The general summary in Table 2 appears to be based on the individual library data, which is generally from about 1856, plus estimates for non-reporting libraries, common schools, and Sunday schools.  It is entitled, however, “General Summary, 1859.”

 

The term “public library” in this source includes state and city libraries, social libraries, college libraries, academies and professional schools libraries, historical, scientific, and agricultural libraries, and students libraries.  Students’ libraries do not include libraries for children in “common schools,” which were local publicly funded schools typically for students ages 6 to 14. 

 

The number of libraries reporting average volumes lent and average persons borrowing is not specified in the summary table.  Data for the individual libraries is given in the book, but within a brief description of each library.

 

The table listing average volumes lent annually and average number of persons borrowing includes an “average” summary line giving 5,856 and 416 for these headings, respectively.  These numbers differ from the average of the state average figures (3,897 and 317).  The reported “average” for volumes lent annually and persons borrowing is probably an average across reporting libraries for the relevant variable.   These figures imply 14.1 books lent per borrower per year.  The set of libraries reporting volumes lent differs from the set of libraries reporting numbers of borrowers.  Libraries reporting lending, but not borrowers, in California, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas lent considerably fewer books than the average reporting library.  If this difference reflects a general pattern, then calculated books lent per borrower is biased downward.

 

The weighted averages (using as weights the number of libraries reporting volumes) for states reporting average number of persons borrowing are 6,876 and 425.  These imply 16.2 books lent per borrower.  This figure is a library-weighted average, not a borrower-population weighted average.  In addition, this figure does not account for differences in the sets of reporting libraries within states.  

 

Table 3

Public Libraries Lending 20,000 or More Volumes about 1856

 

state

City

Library

Volumes

Circulation

Users

Heading for Users

Circulation

per User

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

Mercantile Library

13,400

45,000

800

lent to…persons

56.3

New Jersey

Newark

Newark Library Association

7,000

24,000

636

lent to…persons

37.7

Massachusetts

Boston

Mercantile Library

18,000

96,000

2,667

members

36.0

Maryland

Baltimore

Maryland Institute

11,000

60,000

1,971

lent to…persons

30.4

Connecticut

Hartford

Young Men's Institute

11,611

24,000

792

members

30.3

New York

Troy

Young Men's Association

9,405

20,000

700

lent to…persons

28.6

Maryland

Baltimore

Mercantile Library Association

14,060

26,000

960

lent to…persons

27.1

New York

Buffalo

Young Men's Association

9,331

27,830

1,331

lent to…persons

20.9

New York

New York

Apprentices Library

19,026

40,349

1,936

accounts opened during year

20.8

Massachusetts

South Danvers

Peabody Institution

5,408

24,957

1,413

lent to…persons

17.7

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

Apprentices' Library

16,500

48,000

3,637

readers

13.2

Ohio

Cincinnati

Mercantile Library

17,541

35,000

2,800

lent to…persons

12.5

Massachusetts

Boston

Public Library

56,000

92,233

13,781

accounts

6.7

Massachusetts

New Bedford

Free Public Library

10,000

23,240

3,937

lent to…persons

5.9

New York

New York

Mercantile Library

47,904

120,206

100,000

lent to…persons

1.2

New York

Brooklyn

Youths' Free Library

5000

30,000

 

 

 

Massachusetts

Newburyport

Public Library

8493

29,562

 

 

 

Maryland

Baltimore

Odd Fellow's Library

12584

27,406

 

 

 

New York

Poughkeepsie

Public School Library

4650

25,000

 

 

 

 

Rhees, p. xxi, lists “public libraries from which 20,000 volumes or upwards were lent during a single year.”  Table 3 lists these libraries, with data from the full entry for each library.  The source heading for circulation was typically “volumes lent.”  Four entries provided no information on users.  The other entries provided user counts, under the headings listed above.  The number of users for the New York Mercantile Library is extremely high.  Excluding that library, the aggregate circulation per user for the large libraries for which user counts are available was 15.7.    These large libraries account for about 5% of reported library volumes among all public libraries.

 

 

Galbi Think! libraries page

Galbi Think! main page