Kinds of Libraries in Existence before 1876
In order to understand how and why libraries spread across the territory now occupied by the United States, it is helpful to consider the individual kinds that appeared in different regions at different times before 1875. Chapter 1 explained why the very numerous school and Sunday school libraries are omitted from chapters 2 through 11; they are discussed briefly in chapter 12. Chapter 2 mentioned the kinds of libraries that existed before 1786; they will not be excluded from the present chapter, but because the emphasis is on the times and places when each type was more popular, references to libraries in colonial days and the revolutionary years will be infrequent.
Chapters 5 through 10 discuss each kind of library separately. Usually, its general characteristics will be mentioned first; then, the reasons why anyone wanted this kind; then, when and where the kind was to be found—in what parts of the country it was most prevalent and the times when it was most popular. If changes in the attitudes and interests of Americans or in economic conditions seem to have been related to the prevalence of a particular kind of library, those changes will be mentioned.
The method for dividing libraries into kinds has been to consider four aspects of the libraries that existed before 1876: (1) What kind of agency was responsible for them: an association, a government, a commercial firm, or, in very rare cases, an individual? (2) If an association or government was responsible, was the library intended for persons within the organization or for others (e.g., apprentices or hospital patients)? (3) If a library belonged to some kind of association, was the formation and use of the library the primary purpose of the association? (4) Was the library's collection general or specialized in content? Or did it contain both a general and a specialized section? State libraries, for example, frequently contained a law division and a miscellaneous division.
By considering these four aspects it is easier to understand the purpose and