Library History

The origins of a library in Utica date back to 1825, when a private subscription library opened its doors at the Broad Street offices of Attorney Justus Rathbone. It was 400 shareholders and 1,000 volumes strong. Known then as simply the Utica Library, the enterprise underwent several relocations while experiencing a steady growth in acquisitions.

Other significant dates include:

  • 1838

    Utica's first free public library begins, the result of New York State establishing school district libraries.

  • 1842

    Called the City Library and located on Franklin Square, the Library benefits from a New York State appropriation of $583.86 to purchase books. Its collection now totals 1,700 volumes.

  • 1856

    The Library relocates to City Hall, where it remains for 22 years.

  • 1865

    The collection reaches 4,000 volumes.

  • 1877

    The Library occupies space in what was once the Utica School District administration building on Elizabeth Street.

  • 1881

    Theodore S. Faxton leaves $2,500 for the purchase of new books.

  • 1893

    The Charter is granted by the Board of Regents, and dated June 21st. In September the first Board is organized, with Robert S. Williams as president. Louisa S. Cutler becomes the first librarian under the new arrangement.

  • 1895

    A handwritten card catalog is started. It takes three years to complete and totals 58,000 cards.

  • 1899

    With the book collection and demand for services growing, a move to construct a new, permanent structure gets underway. The Thomas R. and Frederick T. Proctors donate the land, and W.P. White gives $1,000 to start building fund. The citizens of Utica approve a bond issue to finance the project.

  • 1903

    May 3rd, the cornerstone is laid.

  • 1904

    December 12, the building opens following the transfer of more than 25,000 books from the Elizabeth Street site.

  • 1988

    First phases of a 5-year renovation program begin. Completed in 1992, the program brings major structural and aesthetic improvements to the exterior and interior of the building, including a new roof, drainage system, skylighting, floor and wall coverings, and handicapped accessibility. With the installation of an on-line computer system, both staff and the public are able to access not only the Library's own inventory, but the holdings of all the public libraries in the Mid-York Library System.

  • 1993

    A new phone system is installed, giving the Library state-of-the-art telecommunications capabilities and following for further growth.

  • 2004

    The Computer Room opened its doors on February. On December 12th the Utica Public Library celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of the building.

  • 2005

    Installation of a Fire Alarm System.

  • 2006

    Installation of a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

  • 2008

    Library windows restored and storm windows added.

  • 2018

    The Children's Room moved from the basement floor to the main floor, with new furniture and features.  Renovations were finished and the New Children's Room opened to the public in June, in time for the start of the annual Summer Reading Program.  Ruth Shaheen donated $275,000 to the library to move the children’s space from the basement to the first floor.  The rest of the project costs were covered by state funding, money from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, and other donations.