NYPL < — > CUNY GC Library

The development of a permanent rapprochement between the Graduate School and the New York Public Library — with a long-range commitment of public funds under an agreement that would permit the university’s cooperation in the development of those NYPL policies that affect its research collections — should be one of the Graduate School’s top priorities for the near future.
–Mina Rees. The First Ten Years of the Graduate School of the City University of New York. August 1972, p. 10.

NYPL SIBL-CUNY GC loading dock sign


Mina Rees, the first President of the CUNY Graduate Center, set CUNY’s relationship with New York Public Library (NYPL) as a priority. The CUNY Graduate Center in its first location in the W. R. Grace Building on 42nd St. and in its second and current location on Fifth Avenue at 34th St. situated itself to offer CUNY faculty and graduate students access to the NYPL Central Library. NYPL’s Science Industry and Business Library (SIBL) and Oxford University Press opened on the Madison Ave. side of the B. Altman building in 1995, and the CUNY Graduate Center moved into the Fifth Ave. side in 1999. Though SIBL and the Graduate Center occupy the same building, CUNY’s use of NYPL is concentrated at the Central Library, home to the Wertheim Study, the Rose Reading Room, and the humanities and social sciences collections.

New York State has offered public libraries, including NYPL, a variety of funding to support particular projects and people. State aid for NYPL on behalf of CUNY actually began in 1968, and extends, in various forms, to this day. For historical detail, see NYSED.gov’s Summary Charts for Estimated Library Aid, excerpted below. Unfortunately, New York State aid to NYPL’s research collections on behalf of CUNY has declined since significantly since 2007-2008.

New York State Aid to NYPL in Support of CUNY Scholarship

2007-8 $2.000 M
2008-9 $1.943 M
2009-10 $1.724 M
2010-11 $1.673 M
2011-12 $1.563 M
2012-13 $1.599 M
2013-14 $1.678 M


While New York State aid to NYPL on behalf of CUNY has declined, the NYPL-CUNY library collaboration has intensified.

  • In 2011, NYPL’s participation in the MaRLI program allowed vetted CUNY faculty and grads to borrow from the NYPL, NYU, and Columbia research libraries.
  • In 2012, NYPL embraced CUNY faculty and grads as primary academic constituents. A CUNY GC or CUNY faculty ID presented at a NYPL research library entitles the holder to NYPL research material borrowing privileges, no vetting required.
  • In 2012-13, there are 1162 MaRLI registrants from NYPL, NYU, and Columbia. 806 (69%) are registered through NYPL. 396 (49%) of NYPL’s registrants are CUNY affiliates.
  • In 2013, MaRLI borrowing is modest overall, but it serves CUNY significantly. Circulation snapshots show that CUNY accounts for 40% to 55% of MaRLI borrowing. In a May 2, 2013 snapshot, 412 books from all three libraries were checked out to MaRLI borrowers. 386 (93%) came from the NYPL Central Library (the Schwarzman Building), and 187 (45%) were borrowed by CUNY affiliates.
  • CUNY uses the NYPL Central Library’s 2nd floor Wertheim Study. Of about 290 Wertheim scholars per year, 96 (33%) in 2010 and 103 (36%) in 2013 are CUNY affiliates. This year, 63 (22%) are Graduate Center students or faculty.

NYPL’s recently improved scan and delivery services and NYPL’s participation in the IDS Resource Sharing Project contribute enormously to CUNY and SUNY, and to the research generated by other colleges and universities in New York. While NYPL increases support for CUNY, it only makes sense that the legislature continue to do the same. Use the GC’s new Who Represents Me? NYC tool to identify your state representatives, and urge them to continue support for NYPL on behalf of CUNY.




About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.