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 200 years ago, 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, including:

  • exhibits about the Library's history and of some unusual items from our Special Collections;
  • tables with information about Library services;
  • a special showing of the classic movie Desk Set with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (who plays a corporate librarian); and
  • birthday cake, of course!

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 was also celebrating its bicentennial in 2018.

Comic Books at the Library (June 22-29, 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.

Read All About It (September)

The NYS Library has a significant collection of newspapers, particularly those from New York State. In commemoration of our bicentennial, this exhibit will invite visitors to peruse headlines from newspapers published in 1818, 1918 and 2018.

As It Was In the Beginning (November)

This exhibit will focus on the titles that were acquired for the Library when it was first created two centuries ago.

Last Updated: August 30, 2018