The National Library of Ireland

National Library of Ireland gate

As if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough by just being in Ireland, entering the most beautiful library I have ever been in put me over the top. I love this place. If I didn’t have to find food eventually, I might never leave. Well, not for a long time anyway.


Lobby at NLI

Doesn’t the beauty of this place say something about the value the Irish place on learning and preserving knowledge and history?


Door NLI

Just look at this door!


Lockers at NLI

Locker at NLI with bag













First stop: lockers. Everything except your work materials goes in here. I had no problem fitting my wheeled work bag into the larger lockers. You can set your own combination, so there are no keys to worry about. With the glass doors, you don’t even need to remember your locker number. Wish they had these at the repositories I visit in the U.S.! Next to these lockers is a cafeteria. I never actually ate at this cafeteria, or at anyplace else for lunch for that matter. I mean, who has time to eat lunch when there are all these documents to be discovered? I figured that I could always eat lunch next week.


Stairs NLI

After passing through the metal detectors (a sad necessity everywhere), and climbing the stairs, the room on the left has a genealogist on duty, basic genealogical references, and a couple of rows of computers. If you are new to Irish research, or need some pointers, this will be your first stop. Across the hall to the right of the stairs is the room that contains the parish records microfilms and microfilm readers.


Main Reading Room NLI

Continuing up the stairs you’ll come to the main reading room.


Reading Room ceiling NLI

Yes, please do stop, look up, and allow it to take your breath away. It is a research cathedral.

The first task on the agenda is to obtain a reader’s card. You can do this in the small room on the right. I’m the proud owner of several library cards, but this one is now my favorite. Here’s a great tip I learned from Donna Moughty. Wear a badge holder from a genealogy conference. You aren’t allowed to carry a purse, so it’s the perfect place to tuck your reader’s card and several two-Euro coins for copying.


NLI request card

On the left in the reading room are several computers where you can submit a readers ticket to obtain microfilm or manuscripts. You can also submit your reader’s ticket from your computer in your hotel room the previous evening, and find your materials waiting for you when you arrive in the morning. Where has this system been all my research life? If you requested an item like newspaper microfilm, it will arrive at the main desk in this room. There is a microfilm reading room at the opposite end of this room. If you want to print, you’ll need to bring the film to the room where you obtained your reader’s card and place on a reader-printer in that room. The printers use copy cards which you can buy in either one or two Euro denominations. Your only option is to print on 11×16 paper.


Manuscript Reading Room NLI

Manuscript Room sign













If you requested manuscript material, it will arrive in the manuscript reading room which is down the street a short ways at the other end of the block. They’ll allow you to take one folder or item at a time. Non-flash photographs are allowed. I spent many hours here looking at documents created by my ancestor’s landlord.


Bathroom NLI

OK, now tell the truth. Where else but on my blog are you going to see what the bathrooms at the National Library of Ireland looks like?! I took this so you could see that even the bathrooms are lovely here. Now you can fantasize about hiding in a stall at closing time so you can spend the night here. Of course, I would never imagine such a thing. Right.

If you could spend a day (or all night!) here, what is the first thing you’d want to find?


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  1. If I could spend a day in Ireland the first thing I’d want to find is a Pub ( lol ) but the library looks amazing and I’d want to find where my husbands grandparents came from.

  2. What a wonderful research trip. Makes me want to go!

    • Susan, you should do it! There are amazing resources in Dublin. Donna Moughty leads a great group.

  3. Beautiful photos accompanied by first-hand descriptions add up to envy for this part Irish genie! Here’s to the day that I will know enough specifics that I’ll be able to use the library to learn more about my Kenneys and Rices!

    • You’ll get there, Noreen. And there is no better guide than going with one of Donna Moughty’s research groups!

  4. I love your photos! I made efforts to take my own pictures…they are not nearly as nice or as representative as yours. A thorough blog as well…I didn’t realise you could only print on larger paper!

    • The larger paper was the only choice at least for the microfilm printers on the upper floor off the main reading room where I looked at newspaper microfilm, Kirsten. I think the printer in the genealogy room printed on standard European size paper. I bet you want to go back as much as I do!

  5. Wow, I’m green with envy, Cathi. A beautiful library, loads of Irish resources, and pubs every night–what more could a person want? The first thing I’d look for is clues to help me find my husband’s g-g-g-grandparents. Thanks for sharing the pictures (even the ladies’ room) and your experiences. I’d love to get there someday!

    • You’d love it, Shelley! Where in Ireland were your husband’s ancestors from?


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