The unique combination of political, economical and geographical factors caused Odesa fast growth. It became one of the prominent cities in Russian empire. Coming out of cultural and educational needs of population the General-Governor count Vorontsov M.S. together with the newspaper «Odessky Vestnik» appealed to Imperor Nikolaj 1 to initiate the opening of public library in Odesa. It became the second public library in Russian Empire after the imperial library in Saint Petersburg.
Aleksey Levshin editor of "Odesskiy vestnik", one of the initiators of the opening of the public library in Odesa
Count Mikhail Vorontsov governor-general of New Russia and Bessarabia, philanthropist. He made a contribution in opening of the public library and donated rare editions in French.
Gregory Marazli Mayor of Odesa, philanthropist
At the moment of opening the library funds totaled 5 thousand books. As funds grew quickly, the library had to change premises several times. The library moved into its present building designed by an outstanding Ukrainian architect F.P.Neshturch in 1907. According to the decision of Council of Ministers of Ukraine in 1979 the library building has been recognized as a monument of architecture.
Fedir Nesturkh (Neshturkha) architect, author of the project of the new library building (1904-1907)
At various times the library was headed by prominent persons: historian and archeologist, Professor M.M.Murzakevich (1843-1852), writer and translator M.F.Deribas (1868-1882), Slavonic professor V.O.Jakovlev (1882-1896), professor - literary critic M.G.Popruzhenko (1896-1919) and other remarkable people.
M.N. Murzakevych director of the Odesa City Public Library (1843-1852)
Michael Popruzhenko literary scholar, the public library director (1896-1920), author of a historical sketch "Odesa City Public Library. 1830-1910"
The institute of guardianship significantly influenced the library activities. The special place among trustees belongs to the honorable citizen of Odesa, Count M.M.Tolstoy the supervisor of the library within 1897-1919. Due to the activity of trustees the library became the leading cultural center of Odesa: the closest contacts with many libraries of the world had been adjusted, printed catalogues were issued. In 1998 to continue the tradition of patronage in arts the Library initiated (together with Odesa Regional Peace Council) the gallery of honorable benefactors of Odesa.
Count Mikhail Tolstoy philanthropist, trustee of the Library (1897-1919). Museum of Books was opened in the library on the basis of his collection
«People of Generous Hearts». The gallery became a link from patrons of art of the past up to philanthropists of our days.
Since 1922 the Odesa public library began to receive free-of-charge (till 1940), and in a while a paid obligatory copy of documents.
In 1924 the Odesa public library was related to scientific institutions. In 1930 it merged with scientific library of the Odesa state University and the Ukrainian T.G. Shevchenko library. The new library had received the name of «the Odesa State Scientific Library». On February, 10, 1941 the Decree of Presidium of Supreme Soviet of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic awarded the Library the name of Maxim Gorky.
Since 1964 M.Gorky Library has become the regional center of organizational and methodical help to libraries of six areas of the south of Ukraine (Zaporizhye, Kherson, Mikolaiv, Crimea, Kirovograd, and Odesa).
According to the Decision of Council of Ministers of Ukr SSR in 1975 the library became the South Ukrainian state universal depository of books for the above mentioned regions.
On the occasion of its 150 Anniversary the library had been awarded the Order of Peoples Friendship.
At various times famous scientists: M.I.Mendeleev, I.I.Mechnikov, I.M.Sechenov, D.K.Zabolotnyj, M.F.Gamalija, V.P.Filatov, V.P.Glushko and others were library members.
Today Library with its 20 departments and more than 200 staff is a leading research library of Ukraine, nation-wide storehouse of full repertoire of national book printing; regional universal depository; branch institution of the scientific information on culture and art; the coordination center of research and scientific - methodical work in the field of library science, bibliography, and general problems of book-keeping, propaganda of natural sciences and ecology, religion and atheism, the center of international book exchange and interlibrary exchange. It is also a cultural center of state significance.