The public library has a long and distinguished history in the City of Cohoes. The first library was formed in 1880 as the Cohoes District School Library. Located in the present day Cohoes Music Hall, the library had a “modest number of literary volumes” to lend to residents of the growing textile manufacturing city. The library quickly grew and space constraints led to a series of moves. In 1899 the city library moved to the present day city hall. That year saw librarian R. A. Ross print a General Catalogue of the City Library, Cohoes N.Y. showing a total of approximately 4,000 volumes, arranged alphabetically by author. Some of the more interesting holdings were Rough and Ready by Horatio Alger and The Phantom Ship by Captain Marryat.
The library remained in the city hall until the early 1950’s. The next move was to a convent on Seneca Street owned by St. Bernard’s parish. After several years of cramped quarters, it was moved to the Johnston Mansion, a magnificent Victorian home located high on a bluff overlooking the Harmony Mills. The home’s original owner, David Johnston, was one of the first superintendents of the Harmony Company, owner of the Harmony Mills.
Unfortunately, interest in the library dwindled during the early 1960’s. The library was closed and its collection combined with the Cohoes High School library. However, the library didn’t remain dormant for long. A group of concerned citizens revitalized and reorganized the city library in the mid 1960’s in response to community needs.
The newly reorganized library moved to temporary quarters in the former Silliman Memorial Presbyterian Church in the early 1970’s. The library remained there briefly, moving to its present location in the former St. John’s Episcopal Church in the mid 1970’s.
Major building renovations were done in 1986 to bring the library to where it is today. Circulation has grown steadily to over 50,000 volumes annually and continues to grow. American Libraries recently featured the library as an excellent example of “adaptive reuse” of older buildings renovated to public use.
Change has been a constant companion of the Cohoes Library. We look forward to increased online access with all local Upper Hudson libraries as well as access to the Internet and e-resources. The information needs of Cohoesiers continue to grow and the library hopes to be an important and essential part of that growth.