Thursday, December 2, 2010

New York Society Library Charging Ledger 1789-1792

Earlier in the year there was a great deal of publicity about a couple of overdue books at the New York Society Library (NYSL) which had been borrowed by George Washington. I even did a blog post about it here. The NYSL has recently launched a new component on its website which makes available a digitized copy of its first charging ledger which covers the period 1789-1792. In addition to the digital images of the pages of the charging ledger, there is a link to each individual user in the ledger which takes you to more information about the individual including a listing of the books checked out by the individual. Users of the NYSL who are listed in the ledger include George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. There is also a link to each book checked out by the user with information about the book and who else checked out the book. All in all, it is an extremely well done project. In September of this year, I attended Library History Seminar XII, a national meeting of library historians, and a thread which ran throughout the conference was the historical importance of preserving library circulation records. Noted library historian Wayne Wiegand promotes an approach to library history which emphasizes the library in the life of the user in contrast to the user in the life of the library. Historians are able to utilize charging ledgers such as the one at the NYSL to approach library history in this manner.  The online charging ledger of the NYSL can be utilized as a research tool and also as learning tool for library school students and those interested in library history. As is noted on their website, there are additional charging ledgers for later years that have also been preserved at the NYSL. When you visit the NYSL website take time to look around, it is an excellent website. Permission to use the image of the first page of the charging ledger shown above was granted by the NYSL.

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