National Library of Ireland unveils new book repository

Improved safety after devastating fires at Notre Dame and National Museum of Brazil

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has unveiled a new book repository with state of the art safety features following devastating fires at cultural institutions such as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the National Museum of Brazil in recent years.

The facility represents the completion of phase one of a major capital development programme at the library’s main campus on Kildare Street, Dublin.

The new repository comprises 4,700 linear metres of storage. The project involved moving 350,000 volumes from five floors of storage in the Victorian west wing of the building into new onsite storage and high-quality offsite storage.

During the course of the move, there was an audit of materials, with space and resource efficiencies identified after re-sizing of volumes, and after digitised, less-used and duplicate copies were moved to offsite storage.

NLI director Sandra Collins said the collection includes "everything that's been published in Ireland or about Ireland or by an Irish author".

“The new book repository gives us the great relief of having safeguarded the national published collections, bringing them from poor conditions into modern, safe storage,” Dr Collins said.

“This work represents the most significant development in collection care since the National Library of Ireland first opened its doors in 1890.

“We had Victorian book stacks that were there since the building opened. There were 350,000 items on those shelves, with no environmental control, no fire measures whatsoever, and quirky features like sinks and open Victorian drains.”

Dr Collins said recent disasters in Paris and Brazil had added to the sense of urgency to upgrade safety features. “We now have fire suppression for the first time for the book stacks,” she said.

“When you think of Notre Dame, the National Museum of Brazil, or the beautiful art-history collection at the University of Glasgow, there have been some very serious fires in our cultural institutions around the world.

“That certainly raised our anxiety over the last few years. Now, if we had a fire in this part of the building, we have an early detection system to prompt human intervention, and, if the fire triggers the sprinklers, they are triggered only in a localised area.”

Funding of €1.6 million was made available by the Government in 2017 for this phase of the library’s development.

The coming phases, due to take place over the next two years, will include investigative works in the library’s west wing, an application for planning permission, and the development of new public spaces and services.

The NLI will remain open throughout the works, and will seek to minimise disruption to its services for readers and visitors.