Trinity College library
Trinity College library

Old Library at Trinity to Remain Open

Guest Post By Alan Byrne, AB Tours–There is a lot of misinformation going around on various Irish pages and websites about the Old Library at Trinity College and in particular, about the mostly empty shelves that visitors have noticed in the iconic Dublin attraction.
Dublin tour guide and historian Alan Byrne. Photo courtesy of Alan Byrne.

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Some are saying the library is already closed, while others speculate on whether a visit right now is worth it since the shelves are mostly bare.

As a local tour guide, I generally visit the Long Room about 2-3 times per week with my guests, so I have decided to put the record straight.

The Long Room Library is almost 300 years old and is due to have some essential maintenance work carried out.
This work is estimated to take between 3-5 years, although the college has recently announced they are “reviewing” the whole process.

This will involve upgrading the fire prevention system, as well as the climate control.

For the last year or so, the collection of 200,000 books has been slowly and carefully removed from the shelves and put into storage.

Despite on the ongoing work, it was recently announced that the iconic library will remain open until 2025.

But, this begs the question – is a library with “no books” worth seeing?

I would say that it is still worth visiting.

The Book of Kells exhibition is kept downstairs in its own space, so the library clearance work has not impacted it.

It will also be on display in a temporary space when the library eventually closes.

So far, none of my guests have been let down by the mostly bare shelves. There are still approximately 10 bays full so you can get a sense of the library at its finest.

In addition, the college has installed several screens which show the conservators hard at work – from cataloguing, to vacuuming dust and electronically tagging the books.

At the moment, you can also view some of the books themselves up-close (The Fagel Collection), so what you lose in quantity, you gain in quality.

The Long Room is reputedly Ireland’s largest single room, and it’s the scale and beauty of the building that I think most guests are impressed with.

Another recent edition to the room is the long-awaited introduction of four sculptures of women to the collection of great thinkers, which was previously men-only.

a group of busts old library at trinity
These busts, positioned in the Trinity College Long Room, are of the great philosophers and writers of the western world who were connected with the college in some way. The collection begain in 1743 with 14 busts and has been added to recently, with the addition of female busts. Photo: Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland.

These include Rosalind Franklin, who sequenced DNA; Ada Lovelace the mathematician; folklorist and Abbey Theatre founder Lady Augusta Gregory, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

a large harp old library at Trinity
The Brian Boru harp in a display case in Old Library at Trinity College. Photo: Creative Commons.

An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from 1916 is still on display, as is the famous ‘Brian Boru’ harp, which was used as the design for the Guinness logo.

So in my opinion if you’re in Dublin this year, you should still consider a visit to the Long Room Library in Trinity College.

Alan Byrne is a local tour guide, historian and heritage teacher. Founder of AB Tours Dublin.

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