A library was always part of the Union Seminary plan. The first Library Committee was formed in January 1836 and was composed of Thomas McAuley, Thomas H. Skinner, Absalom Peters, William Patton and Ichabod Spencer, all of whom were members of the clergy. The first allocation of $1,000 was given nearly a year later, and Professor Henry White was appointed in charge of the Library. The Library was originally meant for the exclusive use of faculty, the directors, and students; although books could be loaned to those who had permission in writing from a member of the faculty.
When designing the campus in Morningside, "The Program of a Competition for the Selection of an Architect and the Procuring of a General Plan for the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York" explained that the library building should be designed for use by faculty and students, but also for reference and study use by the general public. It should contain a large reading room and study room, stack accomodations for two hundred thousand volumes with the ability to expand to twice that size, and a number of rooms for library administration.