THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 84
(Extensions of Remarks - May 19, 1995)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1080-E1081]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                        HON. CAROLYN B. MALONEY

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                         Thursday, May 18, 1995
  Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the 100th 
birthday of the New York Public Library.
  The New York Public Library was started during the latter part of the 
19th century when several of the city's citizens had the foresight to 
realize that it was imperative that New York have a great library if it 
was to become a prominent urban cultural center.
  Many eminent New Yorkers played an important role in getting the 
library started, but three in particular stand out: Governor Samuel J. 
Tilden, John Jacob Astor, and James Lenox. Samuel Tilden bequeathed the 
bulk of his fortune, approximately $2.4 million to ``establish and 
maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.'' 
John Jacob Astor left $400,000 in his will to establish a reference 
library in New York. The Astor Library opened its doors in 1849, 
becoming a major source for reference and research. James Lenox founded 
the Lenox Library, consisting primarily of his personal collection of 
rare books, which included the first Gutenberg Bible to come to the New 
  In 1892 the Astor and Lenox Libraries were both experiencing 
financial difficulties. A trustee of the Tilden Trust, John Bigelow, 
devised a plan whereby the resources of the Tilden Trust, the Astor 
Library, and the Lenox Library would be combined to form the Astor, 
Lenox, and Tilden Foundations--what would become known as the New York 
Public Library.
  Dr. John Shaw Billings, considered one of the most brilliant 
librarians of his day, was named director of this new library. Billings 
goal was to get the library's resources into the hands of all those who 
requested them as quickly as possible. He designed what has now become 
a landmark building, with its Beaux-Arts design and the largest marble 
structure ever attempted in the United States. The Cornerstone for the 
library was laid in May 1902, at the same location where this landmark 
library now stands.
  In February 1901, the library consolidated with the New York Free 
Circulating Library and established its circulating department. In 
[[Page E1081]] March 1902, Andrew Carnegie donated $5.2 million to 
construct a system of branch libraries throughout the city. Later that 
year, the New York Public Library contracted with the city of New York 
to operate the 39 Carnegie library branches in Manhattan, the Bronx, 
and Staten Island. This was the beginning of a tradition of partnership 
and cooperation between the New York Public Library and the city of New 
York which continues to this day.
  With more than a million books in place, the library was officially 
dedicated on May 23, 1911, by President William Howard Taft, with 
Governor John Alden Dix and Mayor William J. Gaynor present. The 
response was overwhelming, with between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors 
coming through the library on that first day.
  Today, the New York Public Library is the largest public library 
system in the country, serving more than 10 million people a year, and 
over 1.9 million cardholders. There are now four special research 
libraries: the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at 
Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the 
Center for the Humanities; and the Science, Industry and Business 
Library, which will open in its new home at the site of the former B. 
Altman building during this centennial year. The branch system of the 
library has grown to include 82 libraries, with collections totaling 
over 10.5 million items, the collection expanding by approximately 
10,000 items a week in dozens of different languages.
  I ask my colleagues to join me in saluting the New York Public 
Library on the occasion of its 100th birthday, and wish it great 
success as it, ``continues in its mission to inform, inspire, entertain 
and challenge all who enter its doors--be it between the guardian lions 
on Fifth Avenue, its 82 branches, or via the information