The Dublin Society was founded in 1731 as the Dublin Society for Improving Husbandry, Manufactures and other Useful Arts and Sciences. It received a Royal Charter in 1750, becoming the Royal Dublin Society. Although it was a private society, government recognised its usefulness by providing an annual grant.
A Select Committee was established in 1836, to inquiry into the administration of the Royal Dublin Society due to the extension of the advantage of the annual parliamentary grant. The committee recommended that the library of the Dublin Society ought to be regarded as intended just for a few individuals, but as a National Library accessible under proper regulation.
From 1836 when the library stock was largely scientific and technical. It developed to become a more general library with matters of Irish interest. It received a valuable donation in 1863, which added significantly to its holding.
National Library & Museum
Negotiation between the RDS, The Department of Science and Art, UK and the Commissioners of Public Works Ireland led to the passing of the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act 1877, which established a National Library and National Museum.
Most of the Society’s library was transferred to the new National Library. It remained on the physical premises of RDS adjoining Leinster House, which later became the seat of the national parliament.
The library was funded by the UK Department of Science and Art and formed part of the Dublin Institution for Science and Art, which comprised the Library, Museum, National History Museum, Metropolitan School of Art and Royal Botanic Garment He Library was managed by a council of trustees, eight appointed by the Society and four by the government.
The responsibility for the library was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in 1900. Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, it was transferred to the Department of Education in 1924.
The Industrial and Commercial Property Protection Act 1927 gave a Library legal deposit status for the first time. First editions were required by law to be deposited. This legislation has been re-enacted on two occasions and remains in force.
In 1986, the Library was transferred to the Department of the Taoiseach. It was later transferred to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The National Cultural Institutions Act reorganised the statutory and administrative framework of the library. The Act provides for the establishment of The National Library Council in place of the Council of Trustees.
Powers & Functions
The principal function of the trustees of the Council is to conserve, restore, manage and enlarge the library material, and the collection of libraries for the benefit of the public. It has a duty to establish and maintain a record of library material including material relating to the Irish language, in relation to Ireland and to contribute to the access by members of the public to material belonging, relating to other countries.
The Board has power to lend library material, to dispose of it by sale or gift, to borrow money,
A register of cultural objects is established and maintained. These are objects, whose export would lead to serious loss to the heritage of the state. An export license is required.There are new legal deposit provisions, which significantly expand the library’s right to first editions of book.
The library is largely funded by its Department and receives annual grants to cover administration costs, service and purchase of materials etc. On occasions, specific grants have been made to purchase particular and important items of collection. Prior to the 1997 Act, the staff were civil servants. They are now employees of the body concerned.
The Library aims to acquire all material printed and published in Ireland and material of Irish interest published abroad. This includes books by Irish authors on any subject matters of Irish interest. It has a particular responsibility in relation to Irish language collections.
Books are listed in the general catalogue of printed books, and its online public access catalogue.
The Library keeps official government publications including legislation, primary and secondary parliamentary debates, commissions, statistical data. It contains Ireland’s official publication, both of the Irish Parliament and a comprehensive collection of British official publications from 1801 to 1980. It also has a substantial collection of Northern Ireland material.
The Library has a large collection of prints and drawings, maps, printed music and manuscript.
The Manuscripts Department is situated in Kildare Street and consist of 65,000 catalogue manuscripts and 28,000 deeds. This includes personal papers of famous persons. There are records of landed estates, including maps, correspondence, and legal documents relating to 19th-century land owners.
The office of Arms was transferred to the library in 1943, and renamed the Genealogical Office. The Genealogical Office moved from Dublin Castle to a premises adjoining the Library on Kildare Street in 1982.
The Genealogical Office has been part of the Library since 1943. It is a state authority for the design and issue heraldry and coats of arms. Grants of arms are made to individuals and other entities, including local authorities.
The genealogy service is provided by the Library. It is one of the most highly used services. The library keeps extensive records of surviving Roman Catholic parish records to 1880 evaluation records, Griffith’s valuation, and many collections of estate records.