American Libraries before 1876

By Haynes McMullen | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Libraries Belonging to Institutions,
Some of Which Were Operated by Private
Organizations and Some of Which Were
Operated by Governmental Units

The kinds of libraries considered in chapters 5 and 6 all belonged to voluntary societies. The kinds of libraries gathered in the present chapter could have belonged either to societies or units within some government. Of course governments occasionally contributed in some way to the support of libraries established and operated by voluntary organizations, and in later years, some associations (particularly women's clubs) assisted local governments in the establishment of free public libraries. However, there were three kinds of libraries in the years before 1876 that were of concern both to members of associations and members of governmental bodies: those belonging to institutions of higher education, to hospitals, and to institutions established to care for persons with disabilities, institutions which have been called asylums in this study.

Table 7.1 shows that the general pattern of the distribution of these libraries in the different regions of me United States is somewhat like the distribution of all libraries in this study: more in the Northeast, fewer in the Middle West, fewer still in the South, and fewest in the Far West. However, tins table also shows that any conclusion based on the general pattern for the three main kinds of libraries, considered together, has little meaning because the pattern for libraries in colleges and professional schools is quite different from the patterns for the other two kinds.

When the founding dates for the three kinds are considered together, a steady progression can be seen: from fourteen in the 1790s to 247 in the 1850s. There were only eighty-six in the years from 1861 to 1865, then a total of 310 for the ten-year span from 1866 to 1875. There were two noticeable differences between the patterns for the college and professional school libraries on the one hand and the hospital and asylum libraries on the other hand: (1) The collections in the academic libraries appeared earlier: twenty-one before 1791 whereas only two of the others were founded before that year. (2) In later years, the number of

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