Robert V. Williams, Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Univ. of South Carolina, School of Library and Information Science

This guide identifies, describes, and provides bibliographic information on all compilations of statistical information about libraries of all types in the United States from 1829-1999. (Part I of the guide covers 1829-1899; Part II covers 1900-1999.) The guide is limited to compilations intended to cover the entire United States and does not cover statistical studies or compilations done for individual states, territories, cities, and other geographical sub-divisions of the country.

Each entry in the guide follows the same format:

SURVEY DATE: reflecting, as best as can be determined from the original source, the year in which the survey (or study or compilation) was actually performed. This date may or may not correspond to the year when the compilation was actually published.

COMPILER: the name of the person, organization, governmental body (which is the most common compiler) which collected the information.

PURPOSE: reflects the stated purpose (if one is given in the source) of the survey or compilation. Frequently, no specific purpose is given in the original report and it is often necessary to infer one, particularly for the continuing US federal government compilations.

LIBRARY TYPES: records the various types of libraries (e.g., schools, colleges, public, etc.) documented in the report. Frequently, several types of libraries are documented. The term "public" libraries is used to reflect the tendency of early compilers to use this phrase when referring to any type of non-private library and may or may not indicate a tax-supported, free public library.

VARIABLES:  indicates all specific characteristics about a library that are documented in the study or compilation. In many studies a limited amount of information is given about the library (number of volumes held is most common) but some studies provide considerable detail about the libraries (e.g., founding date, circulation, name of librarian, annual income, etc.)

METHOD: the survey method is the most commonly used approach in these studies. However, in some cases the compiler has not stated a methodology and in many others little detail is given about how the survey was conducted. The use of questionnaires sent as flyers to known libraries is a common approach. It is likely a safe assumption that the intent of the compiler was to include all libraries (of a specific type or size) and is not based on some type of random sample of libraries of that type or size.

COMPLETENESS: reflects the efforts of the compilers to assess, from the original source and from later researchers, how well the study or compilation documents all libraries in the US of the stated type or size. However, because so little research has been done on the early statistics on libraries in the US (Haynes McMullen being a very significant exception) this field is often blank.

QUALITY: this field also reflects the efforts of the compilers to assess, from the original source and later researchers or compilers, any published remarks that point out problems (such as reliability or validity) with the reported data in the study.

PUBLISHED: a specific citation to the original publication of the compilation and to any subsequent re-publication in any format. Because so many of the original reports were compiled and published by the US federal government, the complete source, including the Congressional (or serial set) number and the Superintendent of Documents numbers are given for easy location. (The entire serial set has been reproduced in microform and is also available online to any subscribers to the Lexis-Nexis Congressional documents collection.)

About the compilers and this guide:
This guide has been in process for many years and reflects not only my work but the work of many different graduate assistants over the years. I thank all of them. However, Mittie Kristina McLean, formerly a MLIS student in the School of Library and Information Science and my Graduate Assistant, is largely responsible for bringing Part I to completion. Work on Part II was greatly aided by the work of Elizabeth Brinley and Kristin Rowan, also Graduate Assistants in the School of Library and Information Science. 

 To the Users of this Guide:

 I would appreciate knowing of any needed corrections, additions, changes, etc. to this guide. Please e-mail me at: bobwill@sc.edu  ; last updated May 5, 2009; Copyright by Robert V. Williams.

View Part I (1829-1899) of the Guide

View Part II (1900-1999) of the Guide