National library of Ireland image from an exhibition

Get to know: The National Library of Ireland

The National Library of Ireland is the library of record for Ireland; our collections are permanent, and accessible by all at our historic buildings in Dublin City Centre and online via our website www.nli.ie. Established in 1877, our mission is to collect, protect and share the material that comprises Ireland’s literary and documentary heritage, in whatever form it takes. We care for more than 10 million items on behalf of the State for the people of Ireland.

National library of Ireland reading room

National Library of Ireland’s historic Main Reading Room. Photo credit: Mark Stedman

Recent years have seen several exciting new developments at the National Library. Alongside our historic buildings on Kildare Street and the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar, in July 2018 we opened the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibition in the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre (originally the Irish Houses of Parliament). In 2019, we partnered with University College Dublin to open the new Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) located in UCD Newman House. And we are currently undertaking a major redevelopment of our main building thanks to investment of €15 million by the Irish Government.

National library of Ireland image from an exhibition

Visitors to the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibition. Photo credit: Mark Stedman

Our mission is constant but the environment in which we work is changing. In this digital age, new knowledge may be born in digital form and live entirely online. Digitisation can enable access to high-quality information across the world, indeed digitised and born-digital collections are the new responsibilities facing libraries across the world.

We have been archiving the Irish web since 2011 and have recently embarked on a series of ‘born-digital’ pilot projects, allowing content like digital documents and photographs to become part of our national collections alongside the books, manuscripts, newspapers and other physical items we have been collecting, cataloguing and sharing since 1877.

The National Library has a special role to play in Irish society, culture and learning. We provide genealogical and heraldic services and are a reference rather than a lending library; we care for the national collections, holding them in trust and in perpetuity for the people of Ireland. As an Irish memory institution, we have a central role to play in remembering our past and capturing our present, for now and for future generations. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, our sense of identity can remain a deep and anchoring foundation.

In the collections of the National Library, Ireland’s unique cultural heritage is available to explore so why not make 2020 your year to visit and discover more!