American Libraries before 1876

By Haynes McMullen | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Subject Matter of the Collections

In chapters 4 through 10, libraries have been considered in terms of the various groups who established and maintained them. To some extent, this arrangement has resulted in combining those libraries that contained books on the same subject. However, there have been numerous situations where books on a particular subject have been considered in two or more places—medical collections, for example, in medical schools, medical societies, and hospitals.

Therefore, by way of summarizing, it may be well to consider as a kind all collections on the same subject. This has been possible for almost all libraries: there is sufficient information available to be fairly certain about the subject matter of the books in 9,973 out of the 10,032 libraries in the study. The 9,973 with subject matter considered to be fairly certain includes one group about which little is known: 294 libraries belonged to agricultural societies, classed here under agriculture, but which in some cases may have contained a considerable number of general books.

In this chapter, most of the kinds will be considered in order of size, the kind with the largest number of libraries first. The only exceptions are for two kinds of collections: the collections intended to contain both religious and secular books (the YMCA libraries) are the ones that had predominantly religious books, and the collections that were usually intended to contain both law books and general books (the state or territorial libraries) are placed just below other law collections. Libraries of uncertain subject matter are placed at the end in Table 11.1.


GENERAL

In a country with many small towns whose citizens felt that a general education was beneficial, it is not surprising that men—and sometimes women—established and maintained many collections each of which included

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