A Review of the National Library of Ireland

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Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

The origin of this is a quick travel story: this one time in Dublin I accidentally lost my passport when I got a bit tipsy and made out vigorously with a stranger on a park bench. I had put my bag down. Then we left. My bag, and the passport inside of it, was gone by the time I realized what had happened.

So I was stuck in Ireland a little longer than I was planning to be. I decided to make the best of it and get some writing done at the public library.

This is my review of the library.

This would be a great place if it were actually a public library. It is a library — but it’s not for the public.

When you enter the room, the librarian greets you with, “Excuse me, sorry, this is a research library. You’re going to have to leave.” He enunciates “research” as if you are not likely to know what this word means. You do not explain that the title of your last employed position was “Research Director”.

Instead, you inform him that you’re looking for a quiet place to do some writing (and, to prove it, you hold up your notebook and pen). He looks around the near-empty room and says, “Well we’re not too busy today so I can let you stay, but that has got to go straight away,” gesturing to your pen. “There’s no ink allowed. No pens, no markers, no felts, no quills…” and he continues to rattle off a list of prohibited ink-filled items as you sit there wondering if you have accidentally walked into an orphanage and you’re about to be struck by the constipated headmaster. You assume that rather than evaluating education and work experience in their candidates, the library’s Human Resources simply choose staff by finding cranky old men with failing marriages. The training, it appears, is solely the instruction, “We don’t actually want anyone to use this room, so just be as rude as you can.”

“Thank you, but actually I feel very unwelcome,” you’ll say, confused about why he is so aggressively unfriendly. “I think I’ll go somewhere else.” He’ll respond with, “I’m sorry about that,” in a voice that makes it clear he is not at all sorry about that.

As you descend back down the stairs, the pleasant security guard — obviously used to people returning to his desk with a “what just happened?” expression — will suggest you visit the Yeats exhibit. This prompts you to wonder where Yeats did his writing; it certainly couldn’t have been here. Also, why is there a security guard at the entrance to a public library? To keep out the public, you realize.

You ask the guard whether there is a library you can actually use. “Ah, yes,” he smiles and nods knowingly. “You’ll want to go to Pearse Street library.” You thank him.

As you leave, you see street lamp posters with the Library’s slogan: What will you find today? The answer is a publicly funded service seemingly dedicated to being inaccessible — with a beautiful marble staircase.

If what you’re looking for is the verbal equivalent of being pushed off a bicycle, this is the place for you. If you’re looking for a library, try somewhere else.

Written by

Ramsay is a researcher, educator, and writer (crisptext.ca) based in Brazil. When not writing, you can find him cycling or looking for his keys.

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