Libraries of Dublin
by Julienne Grant - Reference Librarian, Loyola University School of Law Library
Editor's note: To see pictures from Julienne's trip, check out the Final Pics at the end of the newsletter.
Last August, I spent five days in and around Dublin, Ireland. Dublin offers a variety of cultural attractions, many of which are particularly appealing to bibliophiles. In addition to an abundance of bookstores, and sites dedicated to the life of writer James Joyce, Dublin is home to an array of beautiful and fascinating libraries. The following is a descriptive list of four of Dublin's major libraries, three of which I was able to visit. These descriptions, where applicable, include information on legal resources.
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF IRELAND - http://www.nli.ie/
The National Library was originally established in 1877 to house the collection of the Royal Dublin Society, an organization dedicated to advancing the sciences, arts, industry, and agriculture in Ireland. Today, the National Library is a depository library for all works published in Ireland, and its print book collection totals almost one million titles. Highlights of the collection include Gaelic manuscripts, early editions of works by Jonathan Swift, James Joyce manuscripts, and the personal library of William Butler Yeats. Irish newspapers, magazines, prints, sheet music, photographs, drawings, and government/official documents are also emphasized. The Library's "Official Publications" collection include Parliamentary Debates, Acts, Bills, Statutory Instruments, Reports, and Statistical Data. A complete list of "Official Publications" held at the National Library is available at http://www.nli.ie/new_coll.htm.
The National Library does not lend its materials, and patrons must utilize the Library's three Reading Rooms to conduct research. The main Reading Room, with its dramatic domed ceiling, is well worth a visit. James Joyce, among others, frequented this spectacular Room, and used it as a setting in his book, Ulysses. Visitors who wish to consult Library materials generally must apply for a short term (valid up to 7 days), or full Reader's Ticket. It is possible, however, for interested visitors to view the Reading Room for a brief time without a Reader's Ticket. I was able to leave my belongings with a clerk on the first floor, and then spend a few minutes admiring the Reading Room with a temporary Visitor's Pass. Visitors with Irish ancestry may also be interested in the National Library's "Genealogy Advisory Service," which provides one-one-one genealogy consultation with experienced genealogists and library staff.
TRINITY COLLEGE LIBRARY - http://www.tcd.ie/Library/
Trinity College Library is the largest library in Ireland, and dates back to 1591 when the College was founded. The Library, which encompasses several individual facilities, collectively holds over four million volumes, including manuscripts, maps, and music. The Library's most famous item is the Book of Kells, which is a lavishly illustrated 9th century Celtic manuscript that depicts the Four Gospels. The Book of Kells is on public display in the College's "Old Library" building, which also includes the "Long Room," a beautiful chamber that houses about 200,000 volumes of Trinity's oldest books.
The Trinity College Library supports the curriculum of Trinity's School of Law, which is the oldest law school in Ireland. The Library's legal collection is housed in the Berkeley Library, which I was able to enter upon explaining that I was a law librarian from the U.S. Berkeley has a wide array of UK, Northern Irish, EU, and Irish legal materials, including law reports, legislative materials, and official government publications. I was also interested to see the Library's holdings on U.S. law, which include various reporters, law reviews, treatises, and casebooks. Interestingly, Trinity uses the Dewey system, so the legal materials are found together in the 340 range.
The Trinity Library also offers its law students and faculty access to a variety of online legal databases. Some are specific to Ireland, such as Irish Property Law, Irish Reports & Digests, FirstLaw, and Westlaw IE. Others, like Westlaw UK, offer a broader range of materials from the U.K., U.S., and Europe. Trinity law students and faculty also have access to databases familiar to U.S. law librarians, such as HeinOnline, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, and LegalTrac.
CHESTER BEATTY LIBRARY - http://www.cbl.ie/
Irish-American mining engineer and entrepreneur, Alfred Chester Beatty (b. 1875 in New York), used much of his wealth to acquire a vast international collection of items, ranging from Japanese woodcuts, to illuminated copies of the Qur'an. He moved most of his collection from the U.S. to Ireland in then 1950s, and housed the items in a small space in Ballsbridge, outside of Dublin. In accordance with his will, the collection became the property of a public charitable trust upon his death in 1968. Today, his collection is housed in the spectacular Chester Beatty Library, which opened to the public in 2000.
The Library, which is actually both an art museum and library, is worth a visit. Admission is free, and I spent several hours admiring the many beautiful items on display. The Library has an outstanding collection of Islamic manuscripts, including an exquisite 11th century Qur'an, and copies of works by renowned Persian poets. Early texts of the Bible, and other Christian manuscripts, are also on display. In addition to its permanent display galleries, the Library houses a 12,000-item Reference Library, which emphasizes topics related to the Beatty collection. The Reference Library, which is open to visitors by appointment, has a searchable online catalogue.
MARSH'S LIBRARY - http://www.marshlibrary.ie/
Marsh's Library was unfortunately closed during my visit last August, but it has subsequently reopened. The Library is located behind St. Patrick's Cathedral, and it was the first public library in Ireland. Built in 1701, the Library is named after its founder, Narcissus Marsh (b. 1638 in Wiltshire, England), who served as Provost of Trinity College, and also Archbishop of Dublin. The interior of Marsh's Library remains virtually unchanged since it opened; the caged alcoves where scholars were originally locked in with rare books are still intact.
The collection itself consists of about 25,000 books relating to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The emphasis of the collection is on religious works, although medicine, law, science, travel, navigation, mathematics, music, surveying, and classical literature are also represented. The Library has an online catalog that is searchable via its website, and a keyword search with "law" yields many interesting titles. There is a small fee for admission, although researchers who have previously petitioned for entrance are admitted without charge.
NOTE: A list of Irish libraries on the WWW is available at http://lists.webjunction.org/libweb/Ireland.html .
Chester Beatty Library, http://www.cbl.ie/ (last visited Jan. 12, 2006).
Marsh's Library, http://www.marshlibrary.ie/ (last visited Jan. 12, 2006).
Michael Ryan, et. al., The Chester Beatty Library (London: Scala, 2001).
National Library of Ireland, http://www.nli.ie/ (last visited Jan. 12, 2006).
Trinity College Library Dublin, http://www.tcd.ie/Library/ (last visited Jan. 12, 2006).