May 23, 1895

The resources of the Astor and Lenox libraries and the Tilden Trust are combined to form a new entity, to be known as The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. The plan, signed and agreed upon on May 23, 1895, was hailed as an unprecedented example of private philanthropy for the public good.


Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donates $5.2 million (the equivalent to $160 million today) to purchase land and build branch libraries that formed the backbone of The New York Public Library's circulating system. In an 1889 essay, Carnegie wrote that a free public library was the "best gift that can be given to a community."


St. George Library Center, the largest library on Staten Island, is built. The branch was designed by Carrère & Hastings, who designed the central location  and were later commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to design 14 additional branches, including St. George Library Center, which together became known as “Carnegie libraries.”


The flagship building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street opens on the former site of the Croton Reservoir and was famous for being the largest marble building in the U.S. at the time.


The Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints—the forerunner to today’s Schomburg Center—opens as a special collection of the 135th Street Library in Harlem to meet the needs of a changing community. 


The winter following the stock market crash of 1929 was the most active period in the Library’s history. It was not uncommon for there to be 800 to 1,000 people in the Main Reading Room at a time, a standing room only capacity.


On January 30, 1941, the Victory Book Campaign was launched on the steps of the 42nd Street library. This nationwide campaign encouraged the public to donate books for people serving in the armed forces and to supplement the Army and Navy's library service.


During World War II, 12,000 items from the Library’s collection were temporarily moved to an undisclosed location.


Breakfast at Tiffany's becomes the first major film to feature the 42nd Street library. Since then, the building has become a popular set for movies including Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, and Sex and the City.


Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, widely credited for sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism, is published—one of the many boundary-pushing works researched and written using The New York Public Library’s collections.


The main branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street is declared a National Historic Landmark. The building was later declared a New York City landmark in 1967.


The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts opens. The Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world's most extensive combinations of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field.


Mid-Manhattan Library opens in the former Arnold Constable & Company department store located on Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, replacing the circulating library that was originally housed in the 42nd Street library.


The inaugural celebration of Earth Day takes place on the steps of the 42nd Street library.


The Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature, History and Prints is designated a research center of The New York Public Library and becomes the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, featuring diverse programming and collections spanning over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global Black history, arts, and culture.


Winnie-the-Pooh & Friends officially move to the Library. Every year, thousands of people come to see these beloved childhood toys.


The first level of the Library’s Milstein Research Stacks—the two-level underground storage facility below Bryant Park—opens, with the second level opening in 2015. Beginning in 1988, the ground was excavated 30 feet deep for the new 120,000 square-foot storage space.


The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library opens its doors in the building on West 20th Street it occupies to this day. In addition to being an integral part of The New York Public Library—its collections being part of the NYPL system since 1901—the facility is a regional library in the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped network.


The Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) opens in the former B. Altman & Company Building on 34th Street and Madison Avenue. The premier public business library featured electronic resources, comprehensive print materials, and services for start-ups and established businesses seeking expansion, and for job seekers from entry to executive levels—all of which will be available at the Library’s upcoming Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library when it opens.


The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers is established in the 42nd Street Library as NYPL’s premier fellowship program. Since then, it has welcomed hundreds of accomplished creators from around the world as they make new work through the use of the Library’s vast collections.


The New York Public Library signs a partnership agreement with Princeton University and Columbia University called the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), providing researchers with access to materials from all three institutions. In 2019, Harvard University became a full member of the consortium.


Bronx Library Center opens, replacing the Fordham Library, which previously served the Bronx. This location is now the largest public library in the Bronx. 


The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building celebrates a century of serving New York City with a full façade renovation and a major exhibition called "Celebrating 100 Years."


The brand new Mariners Harbor Library opens. The single-story branch library is located amidst the rich maritime heritage of Staten Island's Mariners Harbor neighborhood. 


BookOps, a shared library technical services organization, is created to serve both The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. BookOps is located in the Library Services Center in Long Island City—a state-of-the-art facility that, in addition to serving the strategic collection management and distribution needs of the two organizations, performs NYPL’s preservation and digital imaging services.


The New York Public Library releases SimplyE, a free, open source e-reader app that brings together the Library’s entire collection of more than 300,000 e-books and audiobooks and makes them accessible all in one place.


The New York Public Library honors its 125th year with the complete renovation and upcoming reopening of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, the system's largest circulating branch.