New York State Library
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Currently, all programs are online. All programs are FREE and open to the public.

Upcoming Webinars

Date and Time
April 2021

The Erie Canal - Resources Available at the New York State Library 

Musical score cover Low Bridge Everybody DownThe Erie Canal is one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America. The New York State Library has a wide variety of primary source documents and published materials on the Erie Canal ranging from the construction and maintenance of the Canal to life on the Canal.

Senior Librarians Stephanie Barrett and Elizabeth Jakubowski will present an overview and highlights of the Library's collection including maps, music, images, broadsides, diaries, laws & regulations, journals, books, and NYS agency reports.

April 14, 2021

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Stepping Out with Governor Smith: the New York Origins of the "Revolution of '28"

Book cover for The Revolution of 28 by Robert ChilesThis session will describe Governor Al Smith's progressive administration in 1920s New York State and the ways in which Smith's policies informed his presidential campaign. We will also explore the lives of recent-immigrant working-class voters in order to contextualize Smith's appeal to those groups in 1928.

This history will reveal how, despite Smith's landslide defeat, his campaign anticipated the coming of a new urban liberal Democratic coalition on the eve of the New Deal.

Robert Chiles is co-editor of New York History and senior lecturer in history at the University of Maryland. He is the author of The Revolution of '28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal.

April 23, 2021

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Scam or Savior? Joseph Lancaster and the "Delusion" of Public Schools, 1818-1838 

From Hamel, 1818, an interior of a Lancasterian school (either Geneva or Lausanne), c. 1817When American reformers convinced Joseph Lancaster to move to New York from London in 1818, they greeted him as a genius of world-historical importance. His revolutionary school system was lauded as the solution to all the problems of America's young cities. Cities and states rushed to implement Lancaster's vision of student-taught classrooms for the poor. Twenty years later, buried in debt and accused of abusing students and mismanaging school finances, Lancaster jumped in front of a horse-drawn cart on the streets of New York, killing himself instantly. By that time, almost all of the "Lancasterian" schools had shut their doors or abandoned Lancaster's methods. Lancaster himself had become a punchline, a pleading has-been. 

What happened? What was Lancaster's naïve plan to solve America's problems with urban poverty? Why was his "system" so universally cheered in 1818, only to be quickly discarded? In this talk, Binghamton University historian Adam Laats explores the history of America's first tumultuous attempt to reform its urban public schools. 

Adam Laatsexternal link icon is the author of several books about US educational history, including Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education (Oxford University Press, 2018) and The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education (Harvard University Press, 2015). He teaches at Binghamton University (State University of New York). Follow him on Twitter @AdamLaats. 

April 28, 2021

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May 2021

Talking Book and Braille Library 101 (TBBL) 

TBBL logoThe New York State Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) is a free library service for residents in Upstate New York who have difficulty reading standard print due to blindness, low vision, a diagnosed reading disability, or a physical disability. TBBL's service includes free circulation of audio and braille books and magazines through the US Postal Service, long-term loan of playback equipment, and access to a free online downloading service called Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). 

In this free webinar, librarians Shawn Lemieux and Jane Bentley, will provide an overview of TBBL services, discuss eligibility, and explain how patrons can access books and magazines.

May 5, 2021 
11:00am – noon  

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Jane Addams and Her Vision For America 

portrait of speaker Sandra OpdyckeIn 1910, Jane Addams (1860-1935) was one of the most famous women in America, the revered founder of Hull-House settlement in Chicago, and a participant in virtually every social reform campaign of the era. But in 1917, when Addams publicly opposed America's entry into World War I, her fortunes changed dramatically. For more than a decade, she was vilified for opposing the war, as well as for her liberal social views. By the 1930s, however, concerns over the Great Depression were overshadowing the hatreds of the 1920s, and Addams found herself back in favor. Once again she was hailed as a great American, and in 1931 she became the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize for Peace. Today, many people barely remember Addams' name. But it is still true that we live in a world she helped to shape, by the causes she supported and the people she inspired.

This course will explore Addams' remarkable life, and consider what it can tell us about social reform, about women's lives in early 20th century America, and about the practical challenges of trying to put our nation's democratic ideals into practice.

Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She recently published When Women Won the Vote, about the woman suffrage movement. She has also written books about the flu epidemic of 1918, the WPA of the 1930s, and Bellevue Hospital, as well as a biography of Jane Addams, an historical atlas of American women's history, and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie.

May 18, 2021 
11:00am – 12:00pm 

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Archived Programs: Selected past programs were recorded and can be viewed online.

Reasonable Accommodation: Please let us know if any reasonable accommodation is required (Americans with Disabilities Act) at least 1 week prior to the program date by calling 518-474-2274.

Location: Unless otherwise indicated, programs are online.

More information: For more information about these classes, call at 518-474-2274, or send an email to

You can also receive future program announcements via our Facebook page.

Last Updated: April 12, 2021