Patience. Fortitude. MaRLI 2020.

MaRLI 2020

NYPL Library Lion Fortitude

In-person NYPL application & vetting for NYU and Columbia borrowing  

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has tightened its policy for the MaRLI program, short for the Manhattan Research Libraries Network. NYPL this fall discontinued its online MaRLI application and now requires an in-person meeting with a NYPL librarian to determine if an applicant’s research warrants access to Columbia or New York University (NYU) libraries. 

According to the NYPL’s Fall 2019 Quick Start Guide for Graduate Students, MaRLI application from “doctoral students at the prospectus/dissertation writing stage and teaching faculty” will be considered. 1st and 2nd year doctoral students are not encouraged to apply. In addition, MaRLI access to NYU and Columbia will be extended only to those whose research is determined to exceed what NYPL collections can provide, requiring applicants to demonstrate “that they have exhausted the resources available through NYPL for their projects.” Graduate Center students, faculty, and staff are eligible for NYPL research library borrowing privileges simply by showing a current photo ID and a NYPL library card, allowing borrowing from NYPL research collections. But MaRLI access to NYU and Columbia libraries invokes more stringent vetting.

Application from 1st and 2nd year doctoral students and master’s degree students may be best positioned for success if presented to NYPL as independent research with a tangible, non-academic outcome, since artists, journalists, and independent researchers unaffiliated with any institution may also apply to NYPL for MaRLI privileges.

New York City began funding NYPL to support CUNY PhD programs in 1969. In 1986 the state assumed funding responsibility and increased it to the current annual $2 million mark. Though that amount of New York State Aid for Library Services is allocated to support CUNY PhD programs, these funds constitute a portion of $21 million in annual state funding that wind up at NYPL as “unrestricted net assets that are not subject to donor-imposed stipulations” (2019 Audited Financial Statement, p. 6). Much of New York State Aid for Library Services is spent according to recipient libraries’ discretion. 

NYPL services provided to Graduate Center affiliates in decades past (including NYPL-hosted interlibrary loan, microfilm copying, photocopying, and on-site NYPL look-up terminals) have declined as the Graduate Center Library expanded service and collections, and as library technologies evolved. Today the NYPL service most vital to the Graduate Center is interlibrary loan fulfillment. NYPL materials requested through interlibrary loan (about 3,000 items per year), with 120 day loans and no extra delivery cost, can be picked up and returned conveniently at the Graduate Center. The NYPL also offers graduate students quiet Wertheim Study space in the in the heavily-trafficked Stephen A. Schwarzman building, and the NYPL makes Readex databases available directly through the Graduate Center Library website.  

The Graduate Center has been historically symbiotic with the NYPL. CUNY doctoral research is bolstered by NYPL resources, and NYPL’s contribution to public knowledge is manifested by CUNY’s student and faculty research. Attention to the ingredients and priorities of this relationship benefits both institutions. 

PHOTO: NYPL refurbished its iconic library lion statues, Patience and Fortitude (pictured here), in 2019. Image by Sookietex, shared under CC0 license (public domain) via

About the Author

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