The mission of the National Library of Ireland is 'To collect, preserve, promote and make accessible the documentary and intellectual record of the life of Ireland and to contribute to the provision of access to the larger universe of recorded knowledge'
The library is a reference library and, as such, does not lend. It has a large quantity of Irish and Irish-related material which can be consulted without charge; this includes books, maps, manuscripts, music, newspapers, periodicals and photographs. Included in their collections is material issued by private as well as government publishers.
The National Library of Ireland was established by the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877, which provided that the bulk of the collections in the possession of the Royal Dublin Society, should be vested in the then Department of Science and Art for the benefit of the public and of the Society, and for the purposes of the Act.
Historical photograph of the National Library of Ireland (1907) taken from the Nordisk familjebok
An Agreement of 1881 provided that the Library should operate under the superintendence of a Council of twelve Trustees, eight of whom were appointed by the Society and four by the Government; this Agreement also conferred on the Trustees the duty of appointing the officers of the Library. This arrangement remained in place until the library became an autonomous cultural institution in 2005.
After the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1924/5 the Library was transferred to the Department of Education under which it remained until 1986 when it was transferred to the Department of An Taoiseach. In 1927 the Library was granted legal deposit status under the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927. In 1992 the Library transferred to the newly established Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (now Arts, Sport and Tourism) and on 3 May 2005 became an autonomous cultural institution under the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997.