City Readers
May 23, 2016 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The New York Society Library maintains an elegant online database of its circulation records from 1789 to 1805, a period that includes its stint as the first library of the United States Congress. To help you get a handle on the data trove (assembled from 100,000 records tracking every book that every patron checked out), the Library offers visualization tools and two curated lists of interesting readers: 57 representative women and 40 Founding Fathers.
posted by Iridic (10 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Library habits of the cast of Hamilton:

Alexander Hamilton: two novels, returned promptly.

Aaron Burr: 135 check-outs, including 44 volumes of world history and books by Smollett, Swift, Rousseau, and Voltaire. Occasional overdue fines assessed.

George Washington: de Vettel's Law of Nations and a volume of Parliamentary debates. Neither were returned, and the president owes the Library over $300,000 in late fees.
posted by Iridic at 3:47 PM on May 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

a volume of Parliamentary debates

Of the 14th Parliament of Great Britain, 1774 to 1780. He was finding out what MPs had said about him, probably.
posted by Emma May Smith at 4:13 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Earliest instance of Googling yourself?
posted by indubitable at 4:23 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

The correct answer when asked to see patron records is, "Come back with a warrant".
posted by ryanshepard at 5:40 PM on May 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

Somebody's going to hack into the records and release them publicly, and then we'll get the real dirt. None of this "curated" pablum. We'll find out which of those uptight family-values politicians checked out Fanny Hill, and it'll be just like the Ashleigh Madison hack.
posted by clawsoon at 6:11 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I discovered my illustrious ancestor, Robert Morris, checked out but a single book and, true to family form, returned it late and paid a fine...
posted by jim in austin at 7:48 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking about, and I would encourage every librarian who has a line to their vendor to inquire: how can we keep this from happening to our patron's data.
posted by wotsac at 7:54 PM on May 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

> Alexander Hamilton: two novels, returned promptly.

Goethe and Albinia Gwynn? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he took out the Goethe to ostentatiously display while hanging out with his fellow important people, and the Gwynn to read under the covers at night.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on May 24, 2016

One of the core principles of librarianship is protection of patron records. I don't think there is an exemption for historical library records. In fact, New York State law prohibits the release of library patron records with no exemption made for historical records. (IANAL; please update with corrections)
From the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, Article III: "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted." (See also: Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records from American Library Association.) There is no exemption for historical library records in these documents, either.
I am surprised they don't address this issue on their site, but I don't see it from a cursory look around. Clicking on the link for the Privacy Policy in the footer of the page goes nowhere.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:14 PM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

My library won't even let me see my own borrowing record. "I'm trying to remember the name of a book I borrowed a couple of years ago..." "Nope, sorry, we don't do that."
posted by clawsoon at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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