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The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2011, tracing its roots back to the year 1836 when the Young Men's Association (YMA) was established. The YMA was a membership/subscriber library that coexisted with the Grosvenor Library when it was established in 1871 as a public reference library. Later, the Buffalo Public Library (BPL), also a tax supported public library, was succeeded by the YMA. The YMA and BPL fostered the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (now the Buffalo Museum of Science), the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (later becoming the Albright-Knox Art Museum) and the Buffalo Historical Society (today known as the Buffalo History Museum). The Grosvenor Library's music collection was considered one of the finest in a public library. The same could be said of the genealogy collection and the rare book collection that was later established in the 1940s.
The rich collections and history of the Grosvenor Library and Buffalo Public Library combined with valued community services of the Erie County Public Libraries to form the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (BECPL) in 1954, and the new downtown Central Library opened in 1964. The BECPL system has 37 libraries, including the Central Library, eight City of Buffalo branches, and 22 contracting member libraries.