Between the years 1998 and 2001, the art book publisher Harry N. Abrams produced 22 books in its series The Art of the State. Starting with Iowa, New Mexico, Maryland, and California, these books presented an overview of the arts, history, culture, and literature of the states. In the preface of the book about California, an editor said the publisher intended to complete books for all the states. Something must have gone wrong. Several books were published just before the publisher reorganized in 2001, but none have been published since.
Though these small format books limited to 96 pages were attractive, they were a little light on content. They touched on many topics with brief texts and representative illustrations, mostly in color. All they could really do for a reader is introduce topics for further research. I liked them just to get an idea of what I wanted to see when visiting a state. I thought it might be helpful to have a full set in our library, but I did not buy them all, as our funds were short a couple of those years. I ordered mostly the popular travel states.
The books can be a little confusing to find through catalogs and databases. The series is Art of the State but the books are all subtitled The Spirit of America. You may have to try both to identify them.
The books must not have been a total loss to Abrams. Most of them still seem to be available through Amazon (several warn that there are only one or two copies but more on order), and Baker and Taylor shows them in print (though the company has few in stock). I still see them at the big bookstores and in the gift shops of museums and historical sites.
When I was weeding a couple of weeks ago, I found that Maryland: The Spirit of America, which we had purchased in 1998, had a total circulation of one. Just one, and I was the one back in 1998. I had been excited to look at it because some of my ancestors were from Maryland. Because the book was not moving, I withdrew it and gave it to our Western Springs Library Friends, and then I bought it.
Before I withdrew any more books in the series, I decided to see how they were doing here and at other libraries in our shared library network. I discovered a few interesting things.
1. Not many libraries ever bought the books. Some of the titles were in only three or four of our nearly eighty libraries.
2. Books on the high tourism states go out more than the ones of less popular states.
3. None of the books go out nearly so well as other travel books.
4. Call numbers matter. I saw that libraries divided between two numbers for each of the books. Some libraries put them in state travel area and others put them in state history area. In general, the books in travel went out more than the ones in history. The one exception was Illinois: The Spirit of America. We are in Illinois and many children do Illinois history projects, and the higher circulation counts were for the libraries that gave it a history call number.
What am I going to do now? The books do seem to be going out occasionally, and they are nice books. I am not going to seek out the ones we do not have, as they are starting to age a little already. If the choices are buy, sell, or hold, I say hold.
You can stop reading now, unless the sample statistics interest you.
Illinois: The Spirit of America was published in 1999.
Library 1, call number 917.73, 3 circs in 6 years
Library 2, 917.73, 4 in 6
Library 3, 977.3, 6 in 6
Library 4, 977.3, 9 in 6
There were actually more libraries with this book as 977.3. They ranged from 2 to 9 circs.
Texas: The Spirit of America, 1999
Library 1, 917.64, 8 in 6
Library 2, 917.64, 3 in 6
Library 3, 976.4, 0 in 6
Library 4, 976.4, 2 in 6
Hawaii: The Spirit of America, 1999
Library 1, 919.69, 12 in 6
Library 2, 919.69, 13 in 6
Library 3, 996.9, 5 in 6
Library 4, 996.9, 7 in 6
Iowa: The Spirit of America, 1998
Library 1, 917.77, 4 in 7
Library 2, 917.77, 2 in 7
Library 3, 977.7, 2 in 7
Library 4, 977.7, 3 in 7
Arizona: The Spirit of America, 1998
Library 1, 917.91, 11 in 7
Library 4, 979.1, 4 in 7
Neither library 2 or 3 has this title. Library 1 is the only site with 917.91. Four more libraries have this title at 979.1, none with more than 7 circs.