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The New York State Library was established in 1818 to serve the government of the state. The library is one of the largest in the world by number of items held, with over 20 million.[1]

New York State Library
TypeGovernment and Research Library
Location222 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY 12230
Size20 million+ print items; 50,000+ digital items
Access and use
Population servedNew York residents
Other information
DirectorState Librarian (currently vacant)
The New York State Library is located in the Cultural Education Center.

The Library is part of the New York State Education Department. The Library and its sister institutions, the New York State Museum and New York State Archives, are housed in the Cultural Education Center, which is part of the Empire State Plaza, a large complex of state government offices in downtown Albany, New York, United States.

The New York State Library was formerly located in the New York State Capitol and then across Washington Avenue in the New York State Education Building. An annex containing books, journals, and newspapers is still located in the basement of the Education Building. The library undertook an effort to discard some of these items in 2014.[2]



Research LibraryEdit

Library interior late 19th century.

The New York State Library was established in 1818 to serve the government of New York State.

By 1855, the New York State Library was open to the public. A Shaker brother from New Lebanon, New York, visited it in November 1855 and marveled at the free access to books: "I went awhile to the state library, free for the public — looked round — and was much edified with the wonderful collection of books, maps, &c — much art & expense is displayed there. Any one can look around, or read what he pleases — by only calling for what book he wants. I sat & talked awhile with the Librarian."[3] Melvil Dewey was the state librarian from 1888 to 1905. He created the position of reference librarian and founded a children's department in the library.[4] Dewey also initiated traveling libraries, with around 100 books that were sent to communities without public libraries. New York’s system of traveling libraries was often a model for other states.[5]

Although its scope has increased over time, one of the NYS Library's primary functions is still to serve as a repository for the official publications of New York State government (the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as the commissions, public authorities, and other agencies). The Library is also a depository for federal government documents and a patent depository.

The New York State Library has a strong law collection, particularly New York State law.

Another focus is the history and culture of New York State, including extensive holdings in local history and genealogy.

The local history and genealogy section is one of the biggest at the New York State Library. It is used for many different research opportunities including but not limited to people tracing their family history, professional genealogical researchers, biographers, and historians seeking information on collective family histories or the domestic life of a particular period in American history. The collection is national in scope with an emphasis on families from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England. There are reference works available for genealogical research outside of the U.S. but separate family histories are not collected for foreign countries. Excelsior is the library's online catalog, information access is provided using author, title, and subject searches. Card files are also available on site that provide access to the surname records, vital records, city directories, and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) collection. Excelsior also provides access to records housed in the Historical Documents Inventory, a New York State survey of manuscripts as well as archives collections in repositories that the public can access. The actual collections are not housed at the New York State Library, the catalog provides details as to where they are physically held. Genealogical materials are also housed in the New York State Archives, which is located in the same building as the State Library.[6]

The digital collections of the New York State Library consist of over 50,000 documents, including New York State government publications and historical materials from 18th and 19th century in many subjects areas.

On March 29, 1911, a fire in the Assembly Chamber of the New York State Capitol, where the Library was located at the time, devastated the its collections, destroying approximately 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts[7] including some of the historical records documenting New York's early Dutch and colonial history, translated by Francois Adriaan van der Kemp.

Talking Book and Braille LibraryEdit

The New York State Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) is a unit of the New York State Library, but it is also a regional Library in the nationwide program coordinated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress, in Washington DC.

TBBL lends braille and recorded books and magazines, and the necessary equipment to play recorded books, to New York State residents who are unable to read standard printed materials because of a visual or physical disability. TBBL serves residents of the 55 upstate counties of New York State; the Andrew Heiskell Library, a unit within the New York Public Library, serves residents of New York City and Long Island.

History of TBBLEdit

  • 1896 -- Established the New York State Library for the Blind, providing embossed books to blind adults. Patrons were permitted to borrow one book at a time, for up to one month, and books were available in American Braille, New York Point, Boston line, or Moon type, depending on the reader's preference of embossed alphabet.[8]
  • 1931 -- Became one of the original Regional Libraries in the Library of Congress' national program. "Talking" books on long-playing record were introduced.
  • 1952 -- Extended Library services to blind children.
  • 1966 -- Extended Library services to physically disabled and reading disabled individuals.
  • 1974 -- Renamed the New York State Library for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
  • 1995 -- Renamed the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library.

Library DevelopmentEdit

The Division of Library Development provides statewide leadership and advisory services to all libraries – public, school, academic and special – throughout New York. Library Development:

  • administers State and Federal aid for library services and programs;
  • makes recommendations on statewide policy and planning to the State Librarian;
  • coordinates chartering (incorporation) and registration (approval) of public libraries;
  • coordinates certification (licensing) of public librarians for employment in New York State; and
  • collects and disseminates information and data about public libraries and the 74 library systems.


  1. ^ "About the New York State Library". 20 March 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  2. ^ Grondahl, Paul (18 January 2014). "State Library's tough calls on what to save, what to shred". Albany Times Union. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  3. ^ Isaac Newton Youngs, Personal Journal, November 7, 1855, Western Reserve Historical Society Shaker ms. V:B-134.
  4. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 180.
  5. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 180.
  6. ^ "Genealogy: New York State Library". New York State Library. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  7. ^ Roseberry, Cecil R. (1964). Capitol Story. Albany: State of New York.
  8. ^ "Books for the blind; Director of State Library urges the afflicted to read". New York Times. 22 Feb 1900. p. 7.

External linksEdit