National Library of Ireland

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National Library of Ireland
National Library of Ireland logo.jpg
National Library of Ireland 2011.JPG
The front façade of the library, 2011
CountryRepublic of Ireland
Established1877; 145 years ago (1877)
LocationKildare Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Items collectedBooks, Journals, Newspapers, Magazines, Manuscripts, Maps, Prints, Drawings, Printed music, Photographs, Ephemera and Websites
Sizeestimated 8 million items
Legal depositYes, since 1927
Access and use
Access requirementsFree. Open to all those who wish to consult the collections for material not otherwise available through the public library service or an academic library.
Other information
DirectorVacant (acting director is Katherine McSharry)
View on Kildare Street of the NLI

The National Library of Ireland (NLI; Irish: Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann) is the Republic of Ireland's national library located in Dublin, in a building designed by Thomas Newenham Deane. 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 Chief Herald of Ireland and National Photographic Archive are attached to the library. The library holds exhibitions and holds an archive of Irish newspapers. It is also the ISSN National Centre for Ireland. The library also provides a number of other services including genealogy. The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is the member of the Government of Ireland responsible for the library.

The main library building is on Kildare Street, adjacent to Leinster House and the archaeology section of the National Museum of Ireland.


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.

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 the Taoiseach. In 1927 the Library was granted legal deposit status under the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act 1927.[1] In 1992 the Library transferred to the newly established Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (now Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)[2] and on 3 May 2005 became an autonomous cultural institution under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997.

The library has had a series of notable directors, such as Thomas William Lyster (1895-1920), Robert Lloyd Praeger (1920-24), Richard Irvine Best (1924-40), Richard J. Hayes (1940-67) and Sandra Collins (2015-21).[3][4] The post is currently vacant, with Katherine McSharry taking the position of Acting Director.[5]


The main collection of the library is a combination of stock transferred from the Royal Dublin Society, later acquisitions, and copyright deposits of all work published in Ireland.

The National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 mandated that the National Library of Ireland collect all materials relating to Ireland to provide an accurate record of Irish output.[6] The NLI holds over 2785 subject items related to 20th Century Irish Poetry Irish Authors.[6] The National Library of Ireland is main source for the collection of poetry by Irish writers.[6]

1907 photograph of the National Library of Ireland, as taken from the Nordisk familjebok

The National Library of Ireland houses collections of archival papers, including personal notes and work books, of the following eminent writers:

The National Library of Ireland houses the Sheehy Skeffington Papers, a collection of articles, books, poems, and other materials of Irish writers and activists, Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.  These writings offer an understanding into the influence of the Francis and Hanna Skeffington in early 20th Century Irish culture and thought as well as insight into their family life.[9]

The Library also holds the Cooper Collection. Austin Cooper (1759–1831) was a County Tipperary clerk who produce numerous sketches of Irish antiquities which were preserved by his great grandson.[10] The Cooper Collection also contains drawings by other artists including Francis Wheatley.[10]

In 2010, the National Library of Ireland began a collaborative effort in a new website, The National Archive of Irish Composers, which was designed to develop a free online comprehensive collection of the sheet music of 18th and 19th century Irish Composers.[11] As of 2021, the website of The National Archive of Irish Composers describes the project as a collaborative venture between the National Library of Ireland, TU Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama, Heritage Music Productions, and directed by Dr Una Hunt.[12]

In 2019, the Library accessioned its first "born digital" collection as a pilot scheme, receiving the digital collection of Irish author, Marian Keyes.[13]

The Library also maintains an online index of all Catholic parish registers up to the 1880s which recorded baptisms, marriages and some burials. The original collection was preserved on microfilm and later was provided online.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB) – National Library of Ireland". Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  2. ^ Taoiseach Albert Reynolds (20 January 1993). "S.I. No. 21/1993 - Arts and Culture (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order, 1993". Irish Statute Book. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  3. ^ "UCD appoints Dr Sandra Collins as Librarian". Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  4. ^ nli. "Directors of the Library". Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  5. ^ nli. "Our Board". Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Ní Dhuibhne, Éilís (2012). "Poetry in the Archive: Reflections of a Former Archivist on the Manuscripts of Twentieth-Century Irish Poets in the National Library of Ireland". Irish University Review. 42 (1): |pages=155–168. JSTOR 24577105. Archived from the original on 25 April 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2021 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Telford, Lyndsey (21 December 2011). "Seamus Heaney declutters home and donates personal notes to National Library". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  8. ^ Crowley, Sinéad (10 September 2021). "Edna O'Brien archive acquired by National Library of Ireland". RTÉ Culture. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  9. ^ Culhane, Dara (2015). "The Sheehy Skeffington Papers: Treasure Hunting at the National Library of Ireland Archives". The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies. 39 (1): |pages=50–63. JSTOR 24635400 – via JSTOR.
  10. ^ a b Harbison, Peter (2001). "Irish Artists on Irish Subjects': The Cooper Collection in the National Library". Irish Arts Review Yearbook. 17: |pages=61–69. JSTOR 20493166. Archived from the original on 25 April 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2021 – via JSTOR.
  11. ^ Hunt, Una (July 2011). "The National Archive of Irish Composers: Creating a Digital Collection of Music from the National Library of Ireland". Fontes Artis Musicae. 58 (3): |pages=266–273 – via EBSCOhost.
  12. ^ "National Archive of Irish Composers". National Archive of Irish Composers. 2021. Archived from the original on 3 March 2021.
  13. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (16 October 2019). "Marian Keyes becomes first Irish writer to donate digital archive". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2 January 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  14. ^ Fitzsimons, Fiona (2015). "Catholic Parish Registers". History Ireland. 23 (2): |page=21. JSTOR 43235414. Archived from the original on 25 April 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2021 – via JSTOR.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°20′28″N 6°15′16″W / 53.34111°N 6.25444°W / 53.34111; -6.25444