CUNY's PhD programs have been supported from their beginnings by NYPL collections, services, and spaces. In 1962 CUNY became a doctoral degree-granting university, and the CUNY Graduate Center opened in the W.R. Grace Building on 42nd Street, just across from the NYPL Research Libraries' Main Branch, now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, or SASB. Throughout the GC's history, NYPL has been CUNY's research library.
In 1968, CUNY Chancellor Albert H. Bowker and CUNY Graduate Studies Dean Mina S. Rees, backed by the CUNY Council of Chief Librarians, sought a formal arrangement with NYPL to support CUNY's new doctoral programs. They enlisted the American Council of Leaned Societies (ACLS) to outline the mutual benefits of such a collaboration: CUNY doctoral scholars would secure access to a world-class research library, and NYPL, a private not-for-profit corporation dedicated to public service, would be compensated annually by CUNY's funders. This relationship continues to this day, providing approximately $2 million in annual New York State Library funding to NYPL, specifically to support CUNY PhD programs. For nearly fifty years, New York City and then New York State, on behalf of CUNY doctoral students and faculty, has provided NYPL with a $1 million to $2 million annual revenue stream. The state supplies NYPL an additional $8 million per year to support book collections, undesignated research, services to the blind, the Schomburg Center, and SIBL.
According to state reports, NYPL applies CUNY PhD-focused public funding to support NYPL library collections, staff salaries, building maintenance, and capital expenses, in excess of specific GC-serving projects like interlibrary loan and the Readex databases. During the 1970s and 1980s, NYPL provided CUNY PhD students and faculty with study carrels and reserve shelving at NYPL, access to special collections and to pre-cataloged books, and expedited photocopying. GC affiliates used NYPL's reference service, and GC faculty contributed to NYPL purchase decisions. The GC Library displayed updated printouts of NYPL acquisitions and NYPL dictionary catalogs in the GC reference collection. NYPL's membership in the Research Libraries Group (RLG) allowed GC scholars to borrow material from the nation's largest libraries through NYPL's interlibrary loan. CUNY graduate students and faculty occupied a majority of the NYPL's Wertheim room into the 1990s, and CUNY scholars still constitute about 30% of NYPL study room occupants.
The GC Library's e-resource collections expanded over the 1980s and 1990s as vendors licensed digitized scholarly resources to exclusive constituencies. GC library funding increased. With the growth of the Library Network, including the Center for Research Libraries and the IDS Project, the GC Library provides scholars with exponentially more than before. The Graduate Center moved from 42nd St in 1999 to its current location at 34th St. and Fifth Ave., a few blocks away from the NYPL Main branch. Throughout the 2000s, library networks expanded the range of discoverable materials in collaboratively sourced library catalogs and sped delivery of scanned material, even to scholars unaffiliated with research libraries. The 2006 introduction of intra-CUNY library borrowing deepened CUNY support for graduate programs, and established the Graduate Center Library as a hub of intra-library and electronic delivery.
GC - NYPL services advanced significantly in 2011 when GC and NYPL administration agreed that PhD students should borrow books from the NYPL research collections. Simultaneously, NYPL and their commercial vendors expanded off-site database access to any researcher (not only GC affiliates) logging in with a NYPL library barcode and PIN. Since 2013, NYPL has participated in the GC's yearly OneStop registration to supply all new GC students with borrowing cards, with NYPL barcodes for access to NYPL databases, and with special privileges to borrow directly from NYPL research libraries.
NYPL with Columbia and NYU also opened the MaRLI consortium in 2011, with NYPL embracing Graduate Center PhD students and faculty as primary academic constituents. NYPL's MaRLI partnership brokers GC borrowing access to NYU and Columbia collections and on-site use of NYU and Columbia databases.
In 2015, NYPL boosted interlibrary loan delivery of NYPL titles to the GC Library, allowing GC interlibrary loan borrowers to request delivery of NYPL books for research-friendly 120-day loans (subject to recall by other borrowers). With this, CUNY GC users may borrow directly from the NYPL research libraries using NYPL catalogs with NYPL library cards, in addition to requesting NYPL books for pick-up at the GC through GC interlibrary loan.
In 2016 NYPL improved online access to NYPL's Readex databases to GC scholars, making them available through the GC Library platform, with GC credentials. GC librarians aim to sharpen NYPL's focus on book, article, and e-resource sharing with the CUNY GC by expanding e-resource availability and by keeping MaRLI borrowing a viable, barrier-free option for CUNY graduate students and faculty. $2 million in public funding should be focused and dedicated to better support e-resource sharing, and to best serve CUNY's public scholars.
"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.