Welcome to the What Middletown Read Project:

A sample page from the Muncie Public Library's records A sample page from the Muncie Public Library's records

"What Middletown Read" is a database and search engine built upon the circulation records of the Muncie (Indiana) Public Library from 1891 to 1902. The name "Middletown" comes from Muncie's role as the subject of Robert and Helen Lynd's famous community study, Middletown: A Study in American Culture (1929). The project began when Frank Felsenstein, Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Ball State University, came across a collection of dusty ledgers that had been uncovered when the present Muncie Public Library, opened with Carnegie funding in 1904, was refurbished in 2003 in anticipation of its centenary. These volumes, pertaining to the old library that was housed in Muncie's City Building, list all of its patrons, books, and circulation transactions for a period that begins on November 5, 1891 and ends on December 3, 1902, with one interruption (May 28, 1892 to November 5, 1894). Felsenstein enlisted the Center for Middletown Studies and Ball State University Libraries in constructing a searchable digital version of these handwritten records, which are now freely available to the public. This collaboration between Ball State and the Muncie Public Library provides an unprecedented level of detail about reading choices in one American community at the turn of the twentieth century. For more details on the project, follow the links below.

This project is the result of a collaborative effort between the Muncie Public Library, the Center for Middletown Studies at Ball State University, and Ball State University Libraries. It is made possible through the financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, and the following units at Ball State University: the Office of the Provost, the College of Sciences and Humanities, the Honors College, the English Department, and the History Department.