May 19, 1995 - Issue: Vol. 141, No. 84 — Daily Edition104th Congress (1995 - 1996) - 1st Session
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 [www.gpo.gov] THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY ______ 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 World. 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 superhighway.'' ____________________