Pearse Street Library

Pearse Street Library was built in 1909. Andrew Carnegie, an American millionaire gave money to help pay for the library. Today there is a public library downstairs and a special study library upstairs. Here you can trace your family tree or look up the history of your area.

This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.

Pearse Street Library

About a hundred years ago a new library was built on Pearse Street, at that time the street was called Great Brunswick Street. The building cost £10,000, most of this was paid by Dublin Corporation but a grant was also given by Andrew Carnegie, the American millionaire. (It was not the only library that Mr. Carnegie gave money for – he gave money to build Rathmines, Ballsbridge and Charleville Mall libraries). Mr. Carnegie was what is called a “philanthropist” which means that he gave money away in order to make other people’s lives better.

The library was completed in 1909.  The architect was Charles J. McCarthy, who was the City Architect at that time. To help promote Irish businesses and jobs he decided that only Irish materials should be used in the building, and local businesses and workers employed. The front of the building is of made of stone from County Donegal, and the people who worked on the building were from Great Brunswick Street and Ringsend. Some of the workers wrote their names under the floorboards upstairs, with the date November 10th 1908. This was found when the library was renovated in the year 2000, so we know the names of some of the men who built the library.

It had a big room set aside for all the newspapers and a huge children’s library on the first floor, which was also used for lectures and film shows. It also had a lending library where people could borrow books and a reference room where they could sit and read.

In 1931 Pearse Street Library became library headquarters for Dublin city and the first Chief Librarian, Róisín Walsh, was appointed.

Today there is a public library downstairs. Upstairs is a special study library where you can trace your family tree, and look up the history of your street or school. One of the things you can see in the special library is the stone head of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street was blown up in 1966, and the head of the statue was saved.

The house two doors up from the library is connected with the story of a man named Leo Fitzgerald. Leo was a soldier of the IRA. During the War of Independence he and some other IRA soldiers got into a battle near Pearse Street Library with the Black and Tans, a group of former British soldiers who had been sent to Ireland by the British government to help in the fight against the Irish rebels. Leo was shot and died in this house. The house now is part of the library and there is a plaque outside reminding us of Leo’s story.

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