Bankruptcy by the Books: Visualizing Bankruptcy at the Seattle Public Library

Between 2005 and 2010, use of the Seattle Public Library and guide books on personal law and bankruptcy reflect the financial instability and crisis throughout the United States.

This project taps into a mySQL database of anonymized transaction throughout the library. It utilizes processing to create an interactive visualization to explore and better understand the information.

Do the transactions at the Seattle Public Library reflect the financial crisis of the past few years? Browsing the library for books related to bankruptcy quickly leads toward dewey numbers 346.73077 and 346.73078. These nonfiction titles cover manuals and guides for navigating the legal domain of bankruptcy and debt collection for individuals. Year by year, use of these titles increases by nearly 400%, ranging from 102 and 120 check-outs in 2005 and 2006, to 263 and 394 transactions in 2009 and 2010. Patron activity in the library dramatically reflects the struggle by families to maintain ownership of their homes and navigate the financial crisis.

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