The Adriance Memorial Library

Poughkeepsie, NY

The Adriance Memorial Library, located at 93 Market Street in the city of Poughkeepsie, New York, is the oldest tax-supported library in New York State and the third oldest in the United States. Its name is taken from the family who donated the building where the library's main branch has been located since 1898.

The History of Public Libraries in Poughkeepsie Before Tax Support

The story of the Poughkeepsie Library actually traces back farther in history than the Adriance Memorial Library. The first historical reference to a library in the city of Poughkeepsie is found in 1790, with a library mentioned at the Dutchess County Academy, tended by librarian Jacob Radcliffe, who holds the historical distinction of serving as a mayor of New York, and eventually becoming a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Newspaper references make the library out to have been a private collection with volumes loaned to the public.

The next historical mention of a library in Poughkeepsie follows a 'subscription library' which loaned to members based on the payment of a membership fee. It was run by locals, and in 1807 the venture folded on assumed lack of financial support. In 1805, a bookseller named Bernard Dornin moved to Poughkeepsie from New York City and advertised a circulating library which he would start renting books to the citizens of Poughkeepsie. After Dornin left Poughkeepsie, Paraclete Potter, a local printer, established a "Reading Room" in his bookstore, which was continued after Potter left for Wisconsin by his successor, William Wilson. Potter's "Reading Room" continued for over 50 years.

Also in Poughkeepsie at that time were two organizations, the Mechanic's Literary and Benevolent Association, and the Lyceum of Natural Sciences. The two groups eventually merged in 1838 to form the Poughkeepsie Lyceum of Literature, Science and Mechanical Arts which operated as a literary institution in Poughkeepsie for many years.

The 'Poughkeepsie Library' After 1839

In 1839, legislation was passed in NY State which provided public tax support for school libraries. A sizeable sum (in 1839 dollars) of $1315 was provided to the Lancaster School in Poughkeepsie for that purpose. In 1841, when the Lancaster School Trustees gave notice that their 680 volume collection would be open for use by the residents of the Village of Poughkeepsie, the first tax supported, public library in New York State was born. It was accessible in the shop of the collection's librarian, Stephen H. Bogardus, on Main Street. The collection was open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 1:00 to 8:00 pm.This initial collection continued to grow with tax support until it moved in 1843 to the room of the Poughkeepsie Lyceum on Union and Washington Streets with a total collection of 3,263 volumes. Also in 1843, the Lancaster School became part of the public school system in Poughkeepsie, under a newly created Board of Education, passing total control over the library (and school system) into the public's hands.

In the early portion of its history, the Poughkeepsie Library moved around a bit. In 1852 it relocated to 233-235 Main Street, and then in 1862 it became part of the first floor of the Poughkeepsie Court House. In 1872, it was moved to Lafayette and Washington Streets, to a new building which also housed the Poughkeepsie High School.

In the mid-1880's, however, the Board of Education started to consider the option of creating a new building to act as a permanent home for the collection, and organized a committee to investigate this possibility. It was at this time, on June 6, 1896, that the adult Adriance family children, five brothers and one sister, decided to commit their family fortunes to building a new public library for Poughkeepsie, as a memorial to their parents, John P. and Mary J.R. Adriance. As per the offer's arrangements, the Adriance family provided the funds for the building, but it was the city of Poughkeepsie which would oversee all operations of the library and have the task of selecting a location for the building. The city's Common Council approved the plan and the necessary funding to select property, and the Adriance Library's current location was purchased. Architect Charles Frederick Rose of New York City was chosen to build the new library, and on August 10, 1897 the cornerstone was laid.

The Adriance In the Last Century

The Adriance Memorial Library was formally turned over to the City of Poughkeepsie in an extravagant gala held on October 18, 1898. The total donation of the Adriance family toward the construction of the building was over $50,000. The new home for the public library was considered a smashing success, with the Beaux Arts style building providing a welcomed home for the ever-expanding collection. By 1922, the library's collection had grown so much that they needed to build an expansion on to the back of the building, which more than doubled the shelving area and provided a separate Children's Room. This was the last architectural expansion of the Adriance Library to date (2002).

The Adriance Library was designated as a Reference Center for the newly-formed Mid-Hudson Library System in 1959. The Mid-Hudson Library system provided services for public libraries in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, and Ulster counties of New York state. Branch libraries off of Adriance have opened and closed as the shifting population of Poughkeepsie has fluctuated over the years. Currently there are branch libraries for the Adriance in their Maplewood Complex, the LaGrange branch library, and the Vassar Road branch library.

At present, the collection of the Adriance Library includes over 250,000 items, and the library is fully up-to-speed with current computer technology, with web-based catalog search and request services (, on-site computer usage, and 'volumes' spanning across traditional and digital media for use by the public. In the early 1960's, studies by independent library consultants demonstrated a need for another expansion to the building, but to date those projects have not been undertaken, primarily from questions of funding and the need to stay current with the emerging technologies in media. Nonetheless, the Adriance Memorial Library continues to provide a beacon of scholarship to the communities of the Mid-Hudson Valley still to this day.


Reynolds, Helen Wilkinson, "Books and Reading in Dutchess County" in the Dutchess County Historical Yearbook; Volume 22, 1937. Adriance Centennial Celebration Pamphlet; AML-HISTORY, BUILDING - Reference Desk Collection: Published in 1998Author Unknown, "A Brief History of the Adriance Memorial Library", Adriance Memorial Library Reference Desk Collection. Publication date unknown.

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