NYS Library Celebrates 200th Anniversary in 2018

New York State Library Bicentennial: 1818 - 2018

200 Years of Knowledge, Heritage and History

The New York State Library was created on April 21, 1818, when a bill to "establish a public library at the seat of government" was passed in the New York State Senate and signed into law by Governor DeWitt Clinton.

Throughout 2018, we celebrated our bicentennial in a variety of ways.

Open House

On Saturday, April 21 (the anniversary of the date the bill creating the New York State Library was passed), the State Library celebrated its birthday with some special exhibits and activities.

Speakers Forum: Libraries in the 21st Century

As the New York State Library celebrated its bicentennial this year, we were looking not just back at our history, but forward to what the future will look like -- both for our institution and for libraries in general -- as the 21st century progresses.

Two library leaders uniquely positioned to speculate on how the future of libraries might unfold joined us for programs in April:

Dr. Kathryn Matthew

On Monday, April 9, 2018, Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), joined us to kick off our bicentennial activities with a talk about how libraries, and particularly those in New York, are looking toward the future.

Dr. Matthew's remarks at the bicentennial later became the basis for an IMLS blog post.

James G. Neal

On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, James G. Neal, President of the American Library Association, spoke about new directions in librarianship.

Special Exhibits in 2018

Mary Shelley's Monster Turns 200 (March 29 - April 2)

This short-term "pop-up" exhibit looked at Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818 and so, like NYSL, was also celebrating its bicentennial in 2018.

The Noble Library: 200 Years of Knowledge, Heritage and History at the New York State Library (April 2018)

This month-long exhibit coincided with Speaker's Forum and Open House events that marked the start of the Library's bicentennial activities. It focused on the origins of the NYS Library and its growth -- and occasional setbacks, such as the 1911 fire -- over the past two centuries.

Comic Books at the Library (June 2018)

Comic books are not something most people would associate with a government and research library, but our Manuscripts and Special Collections unit's holdings are varied and interesting, and do indeed include a collection of comic books and graphic novels. This exhibit also included a special week-long exhibit on Luke Cage, the first black superhero to have his own comic book series.

Historic Federal Documents (November 2018)

In November, the Library had a display of rare and significant federal documents commemorating its history as a Federal Depository Library. As the New York State regional depository for U.S. Government publications, the State Library receives and permanently keeps a copy of every document distributed under the Government Publishing Office Federal Depository Library Program. The display featured visual material from federal government publications about art, health, military history and geographic exploration, as well as some documents significant to the history of public printing in the United States.

New York State Library Bicentennial Farewell (December 2018)

As the New York State Library rounded out its 200th anniversary year, we took a look at past and present staff members whose toil and dedication have made such a milestone possible; as well as to the building we currently occupy, our fifth home since 1818.
Last Updated: March 11, 2020