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 Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is the member of the Government of Ireland responsible for the library.
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 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. In 1992 the Library transferred to the newly established Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (now Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) and on 3 May 2005 became an autonomous cultural institution under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997.
The National Library’s holdings constitute the most comprehensive collection of Irish documentary material in the world and offer an invaluable representation of Ireland’s history and heritage. Material acquired through Legal Deposit, donations and purchases is subsequently processed for storage and access. Providing appropriate storage and care for all collections is a vital part of our work and ensures its preservation for future generations.
The National Library collections comprise a number of formats; to facilitate easy navigation of this section of the website, collections have been grouped into four categories: Printed, Manuscripts, Visual, Digital. See the Accessing Material section to find out how to consult these collections.
Our printed collections include books, periodicals, newspapers, official publications, maps, and music.
The Department of Manuscripts has approximately one million items in its collections spanning nearly a thousand years.
The National Library’s visual collections include photographs, prints & drawings and ephemera.
This category includes information on digital collections, the NLI Web Archive and digitisation programme.
The National Library welcomes visitors to our free exhibitions in Dublin, on Kildare Street; in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar; and at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, Westmoreland Street.
The National Library of Ireland houses collections of archival papers, including personal notes and work books, of the following eminent writers:
Michael D. Higgins
W. B. Yeats
If you wish to commission someone to carry out research on your behalf a list of researchers – private individuals and organisations – who have indicated a willingness to undertake research on a professional, fee-paying basis, can be downloaded here.
The National Library of Ireland does not sponsor or endorse the individuals or organisations named and will not be responsible for research arrangements, payments or results.
The National Library has developed an extensive Outreach & Education programme to maximise the educational potential of its collections for all students of Irish history and culture. In recent years, the Library has collaborated with groups such as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme to tailor certain aspects of its educational services to the needs of primary and post primary students. The Library also supports younger learners with regular series of storytelling and workshops, while adult learners can avail of a continuous series of short courses on historical, cultural and literary themes hosted in conjunction with UCD Adult Education.
Preservation and Conservation
The Conservation Department works to preserve and conserve the collections of the National Library of Ireland. In general, preservation measures do not improve the condition of an object, but slow down degradation and prevent damage by passive methods. By contrast, conservation aims to prolong the life and accessibility of collections through interventive treatments, which improve the physical, chemical and often visual condition of an object.
As well as the conservation treatment of rare and unique objects, library conservators work on a diverse range of measures to reduce any risks of damage to the collections. These activities include policy advice on handling, condition assessment surveying, rehousing and phase-boxing. Conservators also prepare library items for onsite exhibitions and digitisation and loan items within Ireland and overseas. Library conservators give advice to members of the public and often hold ‘caring for your collection’ workshops with education colleagues, but cannot undertake practical work.