New York State Librarians - Biographies

Bernard A. Margolis - State Librarian, 2009 -

Bernard A. Margolis began serving as New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries in January 2009. Reporting to the Commissioner of Education, Margolis administers the New York State Research Library and the Division of Library Development. Margolis came to the State Library from his previous post as President of the Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston, Massachusetts, where he served from 1997 to 2008. The Boston Public Library is the oldest municipal public library in the country, with 27 neighborhood branches.

Margolis holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Librarianship, both from the University of Denver.  His library experience includes management and executive positions in libraries and library systems in Colorado, Michigan and Massachusetts. Prior to moving to Boston, he served as Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs from 1988 to 1997.

Margolis' service includes a number of positions within the American Library Association including service as an elected member of the governing Council, leadership in the Association of Research Libraries, service as a professional delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries, and service on the boards of library organizations in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Michigan. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Library Administration and Bottom Line: The Magazine of Library Financial Management. He has contributed to several books and has published articles in American Libraries, Public Libraries, and Library Journal.

Portrait of Janet M. Welch

Janet Martin Welch - State Librarian, 1996-2008

Janet M. Welch was appointed as New York's State Librarian in 1996 and served until her retirement in 2008. Welch, a magna cum laude graduate of Bucknell University, earned her Masters of Library Science degree from Rutgers University. A certified School Library Media Specialist, Welch held leadership positions in university, public, school and corporate libraries throughout her career. Prior to her appointment to the New York State Library, Welch served as Director of the Rochester Regional Library Council, a network of 500 libraries in the Rochester, New York area.

The first woman to serve as State Librarian, some of the accomplishments during Welch's tenure included a major renovation of the Research Library, enhancements to the Talking Book and Braille Library, and important additions to the State Library's collections.

Statewide, libraries also saw some significant changes during this period, including:

  • substantial funding to aid from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to aid public access to computers in libraries throughout the State,
  • a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services to help recruit a new and diverse generation of librarians,
  • increases in the number of children participating in the Statewide Summer Reading Program,
  • the creation of 35 new public library districts, which extended service to approximately 300,000 New Yorkers, and
  • the creation of NOVELny, a program that made online news, health and educational databases available to all New Yorkers.

Welch's awards include the American Library Association Award for Nationwide Library Legislative Success and Improvement of Library Services for the American People and NYLA President's Award for development and leadership of the nationwide Public Awareness of Libraries Campaign. In June 2005 she was honored by the American Library Association for her outstanding work in supporting and strengthening library services in New York State.


Portrait of Joseph Shubert, seated with his dog.

Joseph F. Shubert - State Librarian, 1977-1996

Born and raised in the Buffalo, NY area, Joseph F. Shubert received his bachelor's degree from the State University at Geneseao and his masters in library science from the University of Denver. Shubert began his professional career as reference and documents librarian at the Nevada State Library in 1951. He eventually served as State Librarian of Nevada, and later of Ohio, before returning to New York in 1977 to take the position of State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries at the New York State Library, a position he held until his retirement in 1996.

Mr. Shubert's 19 years included continuous improvement of both New York's State Library and its comprehensive library system. Under his expert leadership, State funding for library development programs and statewide library services increased by $56 million, from $26 million annually in 1976 to $82 million annually in 1996.

For more information about Joe Shubert, see the interviews below, which appeared in staff newsletters at the beginning and the end of his tenure with the New York State Library.

Portrait of Melvil dewey

Melvil Dewey - State Librarian, 1888-1905

Melville (Melvil) Louis Kossuth Dewey was an American librarian and educator, who is perhaps best known as the inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification. Born in Adams center, New York on December 10, 1851, Dewey earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1874 and a master's degree, also from Amherst, in 1877. While he was at Amherst, Dewey was hired to manage the library and reclassify its collections, which lead to his development of the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey served as chief librarian at Columbia University in New York for five years, before becoming the director of the New York State Library in 1888. From 1888 to 1900 Dewey also served as secretary and executive officer of the University of the State of New York. During his tenure at the New York State Library, Dewey completely reorganized the state library to improve efficiency, including implementing his classification system, and also established a system of state travelling libraries.

Portrait of Alfred Street

Alfred Billings Street - State Librarian, 1848-1862

Street was born in Poughkeepsie, New York and educated at the Dutchess county academy. He originally practiced law, but his real interest was apparently literature. He edited the Northern Light from 1843 to 1844, and was a published poet. He was appointed New York State Librarian in 1848, and held that position until his death in 1862.

Last Updated: September 15, 2016