Dedication of New York Public Library

President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication of the New York Public Library on May 23, 1911.

Built on the site of the Croton Reservoir, the immense marble Beaux-Arts structure required a decade of preparation and construction. With room for exhibitions as well as a picture gallery, the New York Public Library was designed to meet a variety of educational needs. Strategically situated above seven floors of stacks, its main reading room provided researchers with requested materials as quickly as possible.

More than one million books were set in place for the official dedication of the Library on May 23, 1911–exactly 16 years to the day since the historic agreement creating the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations had been signed. The ceremony was presided over by President William Howard Taft and was attended by Governor John Alden Dix and Mayor William J. Gaynor.

It can hardly be thought extravagant to say that no site better adapted for a structure of suitable proportions for a metropolitan library could be carved out of any part of the city than this of Bryant Park. It is on the highest ground between the Central Park and the Battery; it is, and will continue to be, central as long as any place in New York is ever likely to be central…”

— John Bigelow

On May 23, 1911, the main branch of the New York Public Library was officially opened in a ceremony presided over by President William Howard Taft. The following day, the public was invited. Tens of thousands thronged to the Library's "jewel in the crown." The opening day collection consisted of more than 1,000,000 volumes. The New York Public Library instantly became one of the nation's largest libraries and a vital part of the intellectual life of America. Library records for that day show that one of the very first items called for was N. I. Grot's Nravstvennye idealy nashego vremeni ("Ethical Ideas of Our Time") a study of Friedrich Nietzsche and Leo Tolstoy. The reader filed his slip at 9:08 a.m. and received his book just six minutes later.[6]