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Thursday, 4th November 2004

A Database of American Libraries before 1876

Resources of the Week
Two completely different specialty databases for you to explore this week:
1) Libraries--History--Database
Source: Princeton University
ALB1876: Database of American Libraries before 1876
This tightly focused resource is a database of "institutional and commercial libraries that existed in what is now the continental United States from the time of first settlement through 1875," including searchable records on almost 10,000 libraries.

This database originated from boxes of punched cards that sat in the office of their compiler, Haynes McMullen, a professor emeritus of library science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. McMullen started collecting the data when he discovered a document -- Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition, and Management. Special Report. Part 1 -- published by the U.S. GPO in 1876. Although this 1,222 page report offered information on libraries existing in the year 1876, there was no data on libraries before that time.

According to a press release, "McMullen examined more than 580 sources over a forty-year period in order to fill the gap. He presented an overview of his work in American Libraries before 1876 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000)."

The database is keyword searchable; what's cool is that .gif files of McMullen's original cards (e.g., U.S. Navy Yard library, Pensacola, FL, 1875) are available by clicking on icons that appear in search results. You can also browse the images.

Users who have corrections or additional information for any of the institutions here may click on an icon that displays an input form. If you know about a library that isn't in the database, you can add information about it.

There are a plethora of other searching options, from finding libraries by name, state, or type (more than 80, including such unique choices as Asylum Library, Hotel Reading Room, Ladies, and Temperance libraries; terms are derived from McMullen's book), date range, size of collection, and more. For detailed information, see:
+ Sources of Data
+ Database Statistics

"The Davies Project is an ongoing project at Princeton aimed at increasing knowledge of the history of the collections in university libraries in general and their rare book collections in particular." If this interests you, you may also want to take a look at The Gerould Statistics: 1907/08-1961/62 -- "An historical compilation of data from academic libraries in the United States and Canada".
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2) Biographies--Database
Source: Authors: R.F. Holznagel and Paul Hehn
Who2?
We love specialty databases at ResourceShelf, since they are usually a much better alternative for specific types of information than a general web engine. This nicely designed site wants to be "the Web's most direct guide to facts about famous people." It's very easy to use, the writing is elegant and witty, and it is updated all the time.

The premise is simple: "For each famous figure, Who2 gives you the hard facts you're most likely looking for: birth and death dates, famous works, notorious trivia. Then -- in case that's not enough -- we sift the Web and pick out the four best sites for additional detail. If you're looking for Albert Einstein, that means physics sites. If you're searching for Molly Sims, that probably means swimsuit photos. (If you want swimsuit photos of Albert Einstein, you may be out of luck.)"

Who's behind this site?
+ Fritz Holznagel, former editor in chief of the Internet review site Point (way back in 1995) and the originator of -- among other things -- the Lycos 50
+ Paul Hehn, one of Point's original writers, who also wrote a weekly TV column for Lycos and reviewed sites for the defunct publication, Yahoo! Internet Life.

"Classic authors, movie stars, famous frauds, kings and queens, mythical gods, cartoon dogs: anyone famous is fair game for Who2. Some of the personalities may be frivolous, but our information never is: you can count on the facts you find on Who2. We do our best to feature only links which are equally dependable."

AskJeeves apparently is a believer, since it offers many links to Who2?
See Also: Who2 Now Offers Mobile Search Option

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