Rathmines Library - 100 Years at the Heart of the Community

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Rathmines LibraryOn the 24th October 1913, Rathmines Library opened its doors to the public for the first time in its current location, 157 Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6.

Right: Rathmines Library is all its splendour. (click to view larger image)

To mark the 100th anniversary of this landmark library, Dublin City Public Libraries (DCPL) have great pleasure in presenting a programme of lectures, exhibitions and children’s events during the month of October.


The first library in Rathmines was opened in 1887, in rented premises at 53 Rathmines Road. In 1902 Rathmines and Rathgar Urban District Council applied for a grant to Andrew Carnegie (links to Britannica Library Ed., DCPL borrower number required to view from home), who was at that time dispensing large sums of money for the building of libraries the world over. The application was successful and in 1903 a sum of £7,500, later increased to £8,500 was granted. It took the Council some time to find a suitable site for the library, but they did eventually and in 1912 building work began. The Library and Technical Institute were opened on October 24th, 1913. 

Rathmines Library teak staircaseThe general design of the library presented a fine example of neo Georgian style architecture, while the interior of the building had been purpose built and included on the ground floor, a Newspaper Reading Room, an open access Lending Library, a strong room and a room for the librarian. A fine double staircase in teak (see left, click to view larger image) led up to the landing, where a handsome stained glass window depicting "Literature" was placed overlooking the stairwell. On the first floor there was a well equipped Reference Room, with an inner room for periodicals and a Lecture Hall (now Exhibition Room).

In its early days Rathmines had been a pioneering library, introducing Open Access Lending and a self-contained Children’s Library with its own dedicated librarian. By means of the Popular Free Lectures on topics ranging from "Prehistoric Man" by F.E. Stephens to "My Own Poetry" by Senator W.B. Yeats, the library presented not only the written word, but also the writers and thinkers of the day to the general public. It was a true literary workshop catering for the student and general reader in an atmosphere of peace and learning. The library had a central role, then as now, in making information,education and the enjoyment of reading available and accessible to all.

Stained-glass window in Rathmines Library

Rathmines Library with its classical façade, complete with William Morris stained glass window (see right, click to view larger image) has, since its opening in 1913, been as recognisable a feature of the local streetscape as the Town Hall opposite. 


In October 2011, we celebrated the re-opening of the library after extensive refurbishment works which removed barriers to the library service for people with disabilities and created an open, accessible and welcoming environment for staff and clients alike. Key improvements delivered include a passenger lift, automatic doors, accessible signage, universally accessible toilets and improved furniture and shelving. Significant conservation works were also undertaken to restore the building to its former glory.

Some of the features restored would have been familiar to customers, such as reading desks and the original floors throughout the building: the oak parquet on the ground floor, the solid pine on the first floor and the teak staircase. We have also taken the opportunity to strengthen the literary associations of Rathmines and environs, referencing local writers of the past and the present, re-enforcing Dublin’s designation as a UNESCO City of literature.

...and today

Rathmines Library Interior

Today the refurbished library (see left, click to view larger image) offers access to a collection of 35,000 items in a diverse range of formats. These include books, audio books, large print, DVDs and reference material. There is a vibrant children’s library, reflecting the fact that almost 35% of active borrowers are children. Library users can avail of free WIFI broadband, use of computers to access the Internet, a space for study and research, together with advice and guidance from trained and professional staff. 

View more photos of Rathmines Library on our flickr page.

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