State Library Bicentennial with photos from our past

Bicentennial Celebration

State Library of Ohio Bicentennial Commemorative PlaqueThe State Library of Ohio is celebrating 200 years of library service in Ohio through March 2018. As one of the earliest state agencies created, the State Library’s history is intricately entwined in the history and legacy of the state of Ohio—its people, cultural heritage, government, education, and libraries. The Bicentennial Celebration marks a significant historical milestone for the State Library of Ohio, libraries of Ohio, and the state and its people.

The Bicentennial Celebration  includes  exhibits, publication of a book, and a culminating open house celebration held August 4th .

Founded just fourteen years after statehood and one year after the seat of state government moved to Columbus, a state library was conceived by Governor Thomas Worthington as a place to consolidate state and federal government records and documents, maps, and journals that were accumulating in different offices. Originally named the Ohio State Library, its origin began indirectly in 1816 when the Ohio General Assembly approved a $3,500 appropriation for a contingency fund for Governor Worthington.  While traveling in the east that June, Governor Worthington used a portion of the fund to purchase a set of books intended for a yet to be approved or established state library. On January 28, 1817, the General Assembly passed a resolution to establish a library for the state. The 509 books, many of which are currently on display or in the Special Collections Room, established the first Ohio State Library collection.

The library began in the first state office building, located about fifty or sixty feet from the first statehouse, in a location above the auditor’s office. The diversity of titles in the original collection depicted a broader domain than initially envisioned and included books on laws, history, religions and cultures, governments from around the world, and some works of literature.

John L. Harper was the first State Librarian. The position was a part-time political appointment that paid $2.00 a day during legislative sessions. Harper created the library’s first accession book or catalog on December 25, 1817 listing the original 509 books (Ohio State Library, 2002). Over the next decade, regulations for operating the library under the Governor were established, the first full-time librarian was appointed, and the Ohio State Library was recognized as a state institution.

Over time the library evolved and expanded. The collections and services grew and became more diverse. A library board was created and assumed responsibility for appointing the State Librarian with a library education in 1845. The library was opened for use by the public in 1853. It moved locations in 1845, 1933, and 2000. It became a congressionally-designated depository for U.S. government publications and a depository of Ohio documents as mandated by ORC 149.11. It was renamed the State Library of Ohio in 1967.  Providing access to library services beyond the State Library building began with the establishment of the free traveling library which used horse-drawn vehicles to take books to school children and other gathered groups in 1896, and continued to bookmobiles and now a mobile on-demand technology training service to libraries.

Today, Beverly Cain is the 34th to serve as State Librarian and the library serves three primary groups: state government, libraries, and Ohio residents both directly and indirectly. Outreach services include State Library of Ohio library consultants traveling to libraries to advise and provide support for continuing education, strategic and space planning, and library programs and services.

Learn more about the State Library’s 200 years of library service to Ohio by exploring our website, visiting the library to view our displays, and browsing the online exhibit at

The open house event was held on Friday, August 4, 2017 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Approximately 360 people attended. Click here to view photos from the event on our Facebook page.

  • The event began with a meet and greet in the main lobby and viewing of the Bicentennial displays.
  • State Librarian Beverly Cain presided over the Bicentennial Ceremony Program. The program included introductions, greetings and remarks by Dr. Kendra Albright, Director of Kent State University, School of Information; Mr. Joe Gilligan, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s Central Ohio Regional Director; and Krista Taracuk, State Library Board President. The featured speaker was Jim Bradley, Deputy Director of the Government Publishing Office, and Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, was the keynote.
  • Resolutions and commendations recognizing the State Library for 200 years of library services were presented by Joe Gilligan, Senator Brown’s Central Ohio Regional Director; Katy Kelly, President, Academic Library Association of Ohio; Mary Crall from State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office; Julie Kirk from Secretary of State John Husted’s office; Representative Kristin Boggs; and Andrew Mangels, Chair of the Ohio Library Council Board of Directors.
  • Tours of the library, historical talks on services to libraries and State Librarians, and a reception with light refreshments followed the program.
  • The State Library of Ohio Bicentennial book was available with a donation to the Kent State University School of Information—Mary T. Kim Scholarship Fund.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kathryn “Kit” Matthew, Director of IMLS

Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services

Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew is the fifth Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With career experience that spans private and nonprofit sectors, Dr. Matthew brings to the agency a deep knowledge of the educational and public service roles of museums, libraries, and related nonprofits.

Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2015, Dr. Matthew is serving a four-year term as the Director of the Institute. The directorship of the Institute alternates between individuals from the museum and library communities. Dr. Matthew’s career interests have centered around supporting and coaching museums and other nonprofits, large and small, who are focused on propelling their programs, communications, events, and fundraising offerings to a higher level of success. Through her volunteer experiences, she has gained insights into the vital roles for cultural organizations as anchors in rural and smaller communities.

Featured Speaker: Mr. Jim Bradley, Deputy Director of the Government Printing Office

Photo of Jim Bradley, Deputy Director, U.S. Government Publishing Office As Deputy Director, the second-highest ranking position at the agency, Bradley oversees GPO’s core publishing functions, including Plant Operations, Official Journals of Government, Security and Intelligent Documents, Customer Services, Marketing and Sales, and Business Products and Services business units. These units are responsible for GPO’s most important products including the Congressional Record, Federal Register, , U.S. passports and secure credentials, and other key congressional and executive agency information products and services in both digital and print formats.

The purpose of the Bicentennial exhibits is to present the history and legacy of the State Library of Ohio and its relationship to the foundations and evolution of Ohio’s libraries over the past two hundred years.  This includes documenting the cultural shift of libraries in society, identifying how the State Library of Ohio and Ohio’s libraries have pioneered innovation in the library and information science profession, and document how Ohio libraries, access to information, and librarianship has changed.

At the State Library

Currently on exhibit at the State Library are displays featuring rare and unique materials, photographs, and documents spanning two hundred years of state government and library service. Original, print copies, and digital representations of items, many inaccessible to the public before now, may be viewed at library now through February 28, 2018.  The exhibit also includes monitors displaying an online interactive exhibit and a Staff Then and Now slideshow.

Examples of rare items on display include the State Library’s first accession book, written in 1817 by Ohio’s first State Librarian, and a Weather Log kept by the library’s fourth State Librarian, Zachariah Mills. The Weather Log includes descriptions of conditions for six years, reflecting the weather-tracking trend that arose after the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora and the resulting “Year Without a Summer.”  Furthermore, the log lists occasional events that occurred in Columbus, such as first snowfalls, missing persons, visits from Presidents and dignitaries, political activities, and the laying of the cornerstone for the new Statehouse in 1839.

A Traveling Library Program display includes photos, postcards, and examples of books in the traveling collection and storage boxes used for transporting them. The State Library initiated the Traveling Library Program in 1896 and it continued for 77 years.

At the Statehouse

Another exhibit celebrating the State Library’s Bicentennial will be at the Ohio Statehouse in the Map Room during the month of August. Rare and unique materials, photographs, and documents spanning more than two hundred years of state government and library service will be featured. There will be original and printed digital representations of items, many inaccessible to the general public before now, on display.


The State Library of Ohio’s Bicentennial interactive online exhibit ( conveys the State Library of Ohio’s past through the Curatescape digital platform. Curatescape allows users to culturally interact with the past and present using digitized collections of culturally-significant materials. Built on the Omeka content management system platform, Curatescape has been selected by historical societies, museums, and academic institutions nationwide who wish to expand their reach to the public. This digital platform is designed to emphasize storytelling, rather than the display of single archival objects. Through the online exhibit, the State Library tells the story of the role of Ohio’s libraries, the State Library, and the librarians who form these organizations through time.

The State Library of Ohio’s Bicentennial Curatescape exhibit is provided, in part, by a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council.  Views, findings, conclusions or recommendations logo for the Ohio Humanities Councilexpressed in this exhibit do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio Humanities Council or National Endowment for the Humanities. The Ohio Humanities Council encourages all Ohioans to explore the human story. Providing financial support through grants for community projects, exhibits, and activities, Ohio Humanities partners with cultural organizations to present book festivals and public activities, and to promote heritage tourism in Ohio.