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A Visit to the National Library of Ireland

Co Author:
Councillor Rebecca Moynihan

by Councillor Rebecca Moynihan

As is often the case for citizens of any historical city, we go about our daily lives without taking the time to appreciate the cultural treasures that we have on our doorstep. Often it is because as citizens we feel intimidated by the institutions, their history and their grandness. An innovative project led by Dublin City Council seeks to change that by bringing together the National Cultural Institutions with local community groups through project partnerships. As part of this process, visits to each of the Cultural Institutions have been arranged for members of Dublin City Council and the community groups involved.


The National Library is beside the houses of the Oireachtas on Kildare st, but unlike Leinster House it is accessible to members of the public without invitation. The National Library is open to anyone walking in off the street to register for a reading ticket to use the Reading Room to work or conduct their research among the collection of over 10 million objects. The Library collects and maintains every publication produced in this country, as well as private correspondence, pictures and archives, maintaining the shared memory of Ireland. The National Library also contains the National Photographic Archive, located in Temple Bar, who run exhibitions of both historical and contemporary photography.

It is not a rarefied institution, only to be enjoyed by the few, but rather belongs to the citizens

We met with the Director of the Library Dr Sandra Collins and Head of the Outreach Team Katherine McSharry, who took us through how they manage and collect their archive, as well as the work they are doing in engaging the public in their work.


As you climb the stairs, walking in the footsteps of Library regulars such as WB Yeats, James Joyce and Seamus Heaney towards the spectacular reading room, there is a plaque with a dedication from Yeats to a former Director of the Library Thomas William Lyster. Katherine told us a story of when a library patron complained to him about the groups of young people hanging out on the steps outside the Library smoking and chatting, he replied that he wouldn’t ask them to move as the library belonged to them too. This philosophy is at the heart of the National Library, it is not a rarefied institution, only to be enjoyed by the few, but rather belongs to the citizens.

By Councillor Rebecca Moynihan,
Dublin City Council



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  1. Very interesting. A few years ago I took a course on W.B.Yeates in the National Library under the auspices of an extra mural course run by UCD. It was most informative. I think I am due another visit to check out some more interesting reading!
    Arlene McAllister

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