Since its creation in 1818, the New York State Library has been a repository of official state publications of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, commissions, public authorities, and other agencies of state government. The Library is the official New York State Document Depository and has the world's largest collection of New York State documents.
In order to make New York State documents easily accessible to all citizens, the New York State Library established the state depository system in 1955. Through this system approximately 100 libraries throughout the state and hundreds of other institutions across the United States and abroad, received a wide variety of documents from the Gift and Exchange Section of the State Library on a regular basis. The system received little publicity and, due to only partial legislative support, did not include the full range of publications emanating from the many state agencies, offices, and departments.
In June of 1993, the New York State Document Depository Program was recognized in law with the approval of Chapter 176, Laws of 1993. This statute describes the depository program structure and lays out the responsibilities of the New York State Library and other agencies. The law stipulates that every state officer, department, commission, institution, authority, legislative committee, and board is to send 30 copies of any report, which it has printed to the State Library.
The depository program was redesigned in 1989 and nearly 300 libraries around the state participated as depository libraries, research depository libraries, reference centers, or information and access centers for New York State documents.
From 1989 through 1994, publications were filmed to ensure permanent preservation and availability, and copies of the fiche were sent to 20 public, college, and university libraries in New York State that were designated as microfiche depositories. Paper copies were also sent to 20 additional libraries designated as paper depositories for New York State documents.
Since the 1989 redesign, advances in technology brought about significant changes in electronic publishing and distribution. The Internet and the explosion of born-digital information dramatically improved public accessibility to government information. The new technology was also seen as a cost savings measure during difficult budgetary times. The resulting reductions in the number of documents printed and distributed via the depository program, combined with the success of the State Library's long-running document digitization program, provided the perfect backdrop to move the program into the 21st century.
A new depository program was introduced in January 2010, which eliminated all program participation levels, except for the historic D-level paper depository libraries. The core list of reference titles was also discontinued at this time. The depository libraries across the state continue to receive tangible materials, when quantities permit.
The Core List of Reference Titles was created as part of the 1989 redesigned depository program. Over the years, a reduced number of paper copies made large-scale distributions to Reference Centers, Depository Libraries, and Research Depository Libraries impossible. The core list was eliminated as part of the 2010 redesigned program.