Australia: historic reading habits

Newly searchable database reveals real reading habits.

The Australian Common Reader database contains book circulation stats from public libraries serving working populations in the late 19th and early 20th century. As such it provides a fascinating insight into the reading habits of the population.

The six libraries featured were known as worker libraries, established to educate the working population and “keeping them out of pubs”.

The database can be searched in a number of ways. You can filter your search by library, occupation, gender of borrower. You can also search for specific books and borrowers. Search results can be exported. There is also a visual search tool.

The website gives some great examples of searches. For example, you can search for borrowing figures for Charles Dickens by typing “Dickens" in the search bar, clicking on "Charles Dickens" in the results. You can then filter down by for example occupation of borrow, gender of borrower etc.

More information via the Australian Common Reader website.

Featured in the Sydney Morning Herald.