Release Date: 
Friday, April 6, 2018
Contact Information: 
Jonathan Burman or Jeanne Beattie Phone: (518) 474-1201

The Library Turns 200 in 2018, Making It the Third Oldest State Library in the U.S.

This year, the New York State Library is celebrating its bicentennial. Created in 1818 at the urging of Governor DeWitt Clinton, the Library is the third oldest state library in the nation. To celebrate this milestone, the Library is hosting several events throughout the year, including a Speakers Forum with talks by renowned library experts, several open houses to highlight aspects of the Library’s 200-year history, and special exhibitions to showcase some of the Library’s collections. The theme of the year-long celebration is 200 Years of Knowledge, Heritage and History.

When first established in 1818, the Library served as a law and reference library for legislators, judges, and state employees. In 1844, the Board of Regents became the Trustees for the Library. Then, 60 years later, the Library officially became part of the State Education Department, where it still remains. Today, the New York State Library continues to collect, preserve, and loan materials that support State government and now has holdings of more than 20 million items that are available to New Yorkers on-site, online, and interlibrary loan.

Other notable events in the Library’s history include the purchase of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 by the New York State Legislature from famed abolitionist Gerrit Smith shortly after President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train passed through Albany. The State Legislature made another significant purchase in 1871 when it bought a collection of items once belonging to President George Washington and presented them to the Library for preservation. The items included President Washington’s Farewell Address, preserved in its first draft and handwritten by the President; the President’s dress sword; a horseman’s pistol given to the President by the Marquis de Lafayette; the President’s surveying tools; and a book of colored engravings of British military costumes.

The following events are happening now through the end of 2018 to celebrate the Library’s bicentennial. The events will take place at the New York State Museum (222 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY) and are open to the public, although reservations are recommended for the Speakers Forum talks.

Speakers Forum with Dr. Kathryn Matthew, Director of the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services
“The Future of Libraries”
April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huxley Theater (reservations suggested)

Open House
View treasures of the Library and check out table top presentations about the Library and its resources
April 21 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Speakers Forum with James Neal, President of the American Library Association
“On the Future of the Library”
April 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huxley Theater (reservations suggested)

Unveiling of the Librarians Gallery
Images of the 19 librarians who have led the Library over the last 200 years will be officially unveiled
TBD in the Librarians Room on the 7th floor of the Cultural Education Center

Pop-Up Exhibition: Comic Books at the Library Featuring Luke Cage
June 14-16 and 18 in the 7th Floor Exhibit Space

Pop-Up Exhibition: “Read All About It”
A special exhibition featuring newspaper headlines from 1818, 1918, and 2018
August 16-18 and 20 in the 7th Floor Exhibit Space

Pop-Up Exhibitions: “As It Was In The Beginning”
A special exhibition featuring titles that were on the Library shelves in 1818; curated by State Librarian Bernard Margolis
October 18-20 and 22

Open House
The culminating Bicentennial event
November (exact date TBD) from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Additional details about the events can be found on the Library’s website at Also, throughout 2018, the Library will present its series “Standing Out in a Crowd,” which includes popular movies about libraries and librarians. Exact dates are still to be determined. 

The New York State Library, Museum, and Archives are programs of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. The State Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The State Library and Archives are open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information about the New York State Library, call (518) 474-2274 or visit