London’s Irish get their own library

London’s Irish get their own library

The Irish Centre in Camden will next week officially open its long-awaited new resource centre

The Irish community in London – and the rest of the UK – is to get a specially dedicated Irish Library and Resource Centre.

Launching next Monday, it will be housed in Camden at the London Irish Centre, just off of the Kennedy Hall which has come back into Irish community use – after being rented out – for the first time in ten years.

It is the first major revitalisation of the Camden landmark in a longer-term attempt to make the centre a part of the daily or weekly lives of many local Irish people – of all ages.

Now the Centre is delighted to have such a huge resource readily available to those who want to read up on Irish culture and heritage.

Gary Dunne, Irish Arts Programmer, is excited for the launch. “It all started when we had a donation of 500 books from the Foley family.

“It was a huge collection and something we wanted to really help with, and it wasn’t until Michael McCarthy TD came over to visit that the wheels were set in motion to open our own library.”

London’s Irish get their own library

Now ten thousand books and specialist publications are to be made available at the newly created space, which is next to the expanded room for elderly services. The books have been supplied by the Irish Government, Irish libraries, publishers and also from the personal collections of two deceased friends of the London Irish Centre charity.

“We want to make sure that it is used. There is no point in having this room behind lock and key.”

And with the expanded services running out of Kennedy Hall there are already groups in place who are excited to avail of the service.

Open to all

It will be a ‘fully functional Irish literary resource to appeal to those from all generations’. “We have a book club, Irish language classes, our afternoon tea group, and many others that will be able to use this space to read up on any subject they can.

“The range of books and topics is immense.”

John Dunne, who has over 25 years’ experience as a librarian is going through the final process of shelving and cataloguing the books with six other volunteers.

“There are so many books that we have another room filled with the ones that we can’t fit on the shelves.

“We have everything from fiction to history to music to folklore to children’s books.

“It is a really extensive collection which will be a great resource for those studying or anyone who just wants to read for interest.

“What is really exciting is the fact that in 1916, we have such a huge collection that we can have a special feature wall on it, and that can change from time to time as the collection builds.”

London’s Irish get their own library

At first the library will be available to all, when they book an appointment through the centre. The collection will be fully catalogued online so people can search remotely from the centre for books that they need.

Former chief executive David Barlow said at the announcement of the library that it was important that feedback was given and listened to, in order to ensure it was a real community service.

“The public imagination and support from Ireland has been phenomenal so we owe it to them and the Irish community to have a decent literary resource and we are looking forward to opening it early in the new year,” he said.

“It’s very important to us to be relevant to all sections of the Irish community. We particularly want to continue to look after the Irish elderly but looking at the figures of the last year, 65 per cent of our clients are under the age of 50 and a very large proportion of those are newly arrived.

The Irish postal service, An Post, transported the books to the Centre and the Irish government’s Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht organised the donation of over 6,000 books, 1,000 recordings and free subscriptions to over 30 Irish newspapers and magazines.

The Joint Committee’s chairman TD Michael Mc Carthy said: “Congratulations to the London Irish Centre on the opening of its library. This library, holding in excess of 10,000 books and many other publications, will be a wonderful resource for the Irish community in London.

“This library represents a solid connection between the people of Ireland at home and the Irish community in London and I hope that it grows into a centre for Irish studies and a resource for the people of London, both Irish and non-Irish alike.”

London’s Irish get their own library

The Irish government have also presented the library, which has 14 separate wall spaces, with a commemorative Book of Kells which is signed by many TDs, and Gary Dunne received it with Mr Barlow at a ceremony in the Oireachtas in late 2014.

They are expected to attend to see the project be launched on Monday, April 18.

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