The Dag Hammarskjöld Library
United Nations Headquarters

In 1959, the Ford Foundation made a $6.2 million grant to the United Nations for the construction of a new library. Dag Hammarskjöld, in his budget statement to the Fifth Committee,  remarked: 
"The Foundation has indicated that its objective in making the grant in response to our request was to assure the United Nations of a building of the highest quality, aesthetically designed, furnished, and equipped in conformity with the most modern library standards. The gift of  $6,200,000 plus possible interest accrual is deemed by the architects and by myself to be adequate to cover all costs as set forth in the above objective...

I have felt that the importance of this action by the Ford Foundation provided justification for the inclusion of an additional item in the agenda of this session of the General Assembly...

I am sure that at the appropriate time the States Members of the United Nations will reflect the same satisfaction that I feel with regard to the generosity of the Ford Foundation's action". 

(711th meeting, 29 September 1959)

In his report submitted to the General Assembly at the same meeting, the Secretary-General commented on the inadequacy of the existing Library building as follows:

"The present home of the Library was regarded from the beginning as inadequate. When the Secretariat moved into the new Headquarters in 1950, the present building was the only - although unsatisfactory - space for the housing of the Library. The building, architecturally out of harmony with the other United Nations buildings and designed as an office building, lacked the possibility of effective alteration for library use and its floors were not sufficiently sturdy to sustain heavy stacks. It has been necessary to make  a vertical dispersal of the collections and services over nine levels, including three basement levels, two of which are scarcely usable because of high temperatures and humidity and one of which is accessible only by stairs. There has been a horizontal fragmentation of the collections and services into many small rooms designed as offices. Moreover, the building, limited in size, provides no further opportunity for expansion and prohibits the growth of the Library to that level which would seem commensurate with the fulfilment of its purposes and with the increasing use to which it is being put by the enlarging membership of the United Nations and by serious scholars and writers interested in the United Nations and in international affairs." 

(A/4231, 29 September 1959) 

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The General Assembly accepted the gift of the Ford Foundation by  resolution 1354(XIV) of 3 November 1959, entitled, "The United Nations Library: gift of the Ford Foundation". 

Architectural firm Harrison and Abramovitz and Harris, George A. Fuller Construction Co, and designer Richard Craig were in charge of the project. 

After Dag Hammarskjöld's death, the President of the Ford Foundation, Mr. Henry T. Heald, wrote to the President of the General Assembly, on 3 October 1961:

"The Ford Foundation has many reasons to appreciate the contribution Dag Hammarskjöld made to world peace, and with the world we mourn him.

During the past few years it was the privilege of members of the Foundation to have many meetings and discussions with Mr. Hammarskjöld. It was with him and Mr. Cordier that arrangements were discussed and made for the construction of the United Nations Library. The late Secretary-General's vigorous and detailed interest in the project and his understanding of the significance of the Library for the United Nations were decisive factors in the action taken by the Foundation.

We hope that the new Library will be considered in some measure an appropriate remembrance of Mr. Hammarskjöld’s life. It is in this spirit that the Ford Foundation would consider it an honour if the United Nations would decide to name the new Library "The Dag Hammarskjöld Library". We recognize that the decision is one for the United Nations to make. We believe that his name on the Library would symbolize the hopes we all have for it - that in the years ahead the Library may become a centre for men and women from all parts of the world whose efforts are dedicated, as were Dag Hammarskjöld’s, to peace on earth.” 

(A/4908, 3 October 1961)

On 16 October, 1961, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1625(XVI), entitled, "Memorial to the late Dag Hammarskjöld". 
"Mourning the passing of Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 

Desiring to establish an appropriate memorial commemorating his service to the United Nations, 

Noting with appreciation the hope expressed by the Ford Foundation, as donor, that the new United Nations Library might be considered in some measure an appropriate remembrance of Mr. Hammarskjöld’s life,

Decides to dedicate the new library of 16 November 1961 as "The Dag Hammarskjöld Library".

As noted by Henry van Dusen: 
“There was a peculiar appropriateness in the fact that Hammaskjöld’s last legacy to the United Nations was a scheme for a great Library, made possible by the generosity of the Ford Foundation.  Hammarskjöld himself not only conceived the idea but personally supervised almost every detail of the planning, including the choice of topics and speakers for an impressive three-day Program of Dedication... 

As there was special appropriateness that Dag Hammarskjöld’s final contribution to the United Nations should have been a Library, so it was no less fitting that the United Nations’ principal memorial to him should have taken the form of the naming of the Library in his honor, and that its dedication should have been carried through in faithful accordance with his plans, two months almost to the day after he had given his last full measure of devotion in its service."    Henry P. van Dusen,  Dag Hammarskjöld : the Statesman and His Faith, 1967, p. 118.

On 16 November 1961, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library was dedicated. 

Mr. Heald, President of the Ford Foundation, concluded his dedication address with the following words: 

"Men and women throughout the world, I am certain, are gratified by the action taken recently by this Assembly to name the new building the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. We shall always rembember the conversations and meetings with Mr. Hammarskjöld, his alert interest in every detail of the Library and his insistence that the highest standards be met. He saw the Library, not primarily as a building, but as a centre dedicated to peace. It is our sorrow today that this man of peace is not here to enter the Library he did so much to create.

In these disturbing days, people throughout the world look to the United Nations for the peaceful settlement of disputes. To men and women everywhere these magnificent buildings at the United Nations Plaza are more than glass and steel, stone and mortar. They symbolize the hopes of the world, many of which are still to be fulfilled but all of which must not be disappointed. May the Dag Hammarskjöld Library contribute facts and truths to the deliberations that take place here. May it help in some measure the new nations and the old in their search for peace." (The Dag Hammarskjöld Library : Gift of the Ford Foundation, 1962, p. 48. ST/LIB(02)D2)