Developer of capital's public library service


MÁIRÍN O'BYRNE:MÁIRÍN O'BYRNE, who has died aged 88, was a former Dublin city and county librarian, and did much to develop the public library service throughout the city and suburbs.

Deeply committed to public service, she passionately believed that libraries could make a difference to the lives of those who did not have formal education and was a great believer in life-long education.

Máirín O'Byrne began her career in Dún Laoghaire public library in 1937 and secured a diploma in library training at University College Dublin in 1943. For 15 years from 1946, she was librarian in Bray public library, which was then independent of Wicklow county library.

It was in a poor state when she took over and she made massive strides in bringing the facilities up to date.

She took up the position of Dublin city librarian in 1961 and was appointed Dublin city and county librarian in 1967, which she held until her retirement in 1984.

She sought to enhance the physical environment of libraries and persuaded the Arts Council to fund a mural by Eithne Jordan for Swords library, while convincing a local councillor and publican to fund a piece of sculpture by Conor Fallon.

She was held in high regard among her peers, being elected as president of the Library Association (1966-1967). She certainly made a difference, taking a particular interest in the development of professional qualifications for library staff.

The holder of an honorary fellowship of the Library Association of Ireland, she also was honorary (life) vice president of the Library Association (UK), chairwoman of the Public Library Review Group (1985) and visiting lecturer at the Department of library studies at UCD.

She was a member of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna/the Library Council (1958-1982), the RTÉ Authority, the Public Service Advisory Council and was a trustee of the National Library. A regular contributor to An Leabharlann, she also was co-author of the Public Library Review Report(1987).

Born in 1919, she was the eldest of the four children and only daughter of William and Mary O'Byrne.

Both her parents were school teachers. Her father was from Paulstown, Co Kilkenny, and her mother was from Clandouglas, Lixnaw, Co Kerry.

The family grew up in Kildangan, Co Kildare, where her father was principal of the local national school for more than 30 years.

She attended secondary school at the Mercy Sisters convent in Monasterevin. Most summers were spent in Ballybunion and her Irish was perfected in the Kerry Gaeltacht of Ballyferriter and Waterford Gaeltacht of Ring.

She settled in Albert Road, Glenageary, Co Dublin, in the early 1950, and was joined there by her parents after her father's retirement. He suffered from muscular dystrophy in his final years and was nursed by Máirín and her mother. He died in 1955.

Máirín's mother lived with her until her death in 1970. Two years later Máirín moved to another house on the same road, which became her home for the next 36 years.

She provided a home from home for her brothers Kieran and Brendan, who were priests in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. They did not enjoy perfect health and both were nursed from time to time by Máirín, allowing them to continue their priestly duties until their deaths in 1995 and 2002.

Her eldest brother Séamus practised as a pharmacist in Sutton for 35 years. Married to Pearl, they had six children, Máirín's only nieces and nephews. She cared for Pearl after Séamus's death in 2003.

She never married but was a great family person.

Former colleagues admired her sharp intellect, wit, sense of fun, generosity of spirit and admired her courage in the face of a slowly advancing illness.

A dynamic person, she was very involved the life of Dublin city. She had a great personal interest in art, and she loved her garden and her dogs.

Máirín O'Byrne: born December 5th, 1919; died August 1st, 2008