President Michael D. Higgin’s gift to Irish Public Libraries
Published on 1st April 2021
On 13th February 2020, in what now seems like a whole other era, President Michael D. Higgins, amid great excitement, visited a crowded Cabra Library, to mark the handover of his gift to Irish Public Libraries for Irish citizens, of an initial 700 books from his own personal collection, (this donation was added to later).
The Office of the President commented: “The President chose to make this donation to Irish libraries because he views libraries as places that help people to nurture their inquisitive natures, and books as windows onto a wide variety of worlds, both real and imagined.”
As a leading advocate of the importance of public libraries in promoting and celebrating the many benefits of reading, the President said: “The best place for books is where they will be picked up and read by many people. Our public libraries are a wonderful place for the sharing of ideas, allowing the writers to encourage creativity, and to share the ideas and concepts contained in the books, with their readers.”
Few of us could have foreseen on that February day, that only weeks later, we would be thrown headlong into a strange new locked down world.
Fast track a little more than a year later and the President would lend his support to Irish public libraries by launching the Ireland Reads Campaign on 25th February 2021, which celebrated Ireland’s first national reading day (part of the Government Wellness initiative); very eloquently declaring, “libraries are the oxygen of public life, and most important are the library staff who have, over the years, created an atmosphere for generations of Irish children, women and men.”
In tandem, the President announced his gift of an additional 100 books to Irish public libraries, to be received at Cabra Library.
The President’s donation is a veritable treasure trove, spanning a vast array of topics, very much reflecting his interests as a poet, an academic, a former politician and linguist. The collection derives from two sources: books acquired by him for his personal research and enjoyment, and also books presented to him from multiple local, national and international sources. It is therefore very diverse and multilingual, ranging from children’s to adult titles, fiction and non-fiction, in both print and audio. What makes some of the titles extra special, is that they are personally inscribed by the author or donor, with some of them marking historic events attended by him.
Particular strengths of the collection are the many Irish-interest and leabhair Ghaeilge titles; history titles (local and national), works of poetry, and broadly, titles on Irish cultural life and the Irish diaspora. Many of these are locally or self-published gems, which are not always readily available in mainstream outlets.
To give just a little flavour of some of the titles included:
• T. K. Whitaker: his life and times by Ted Greene (signed by the author, a Drogheda local historian)
• Heroes in the shadows: humanitarian action and courage in the second World War by Brian Fleming (signed by the Irish author, a former Fine Gael politician)
• The GAA and Radio Eireann 1926-2010 : the story of the commentators who broadcast Gaelic Games by Patrick P. Guthrie. This beautiful edition has a special binding with embossed lettering reads: "Presented to: Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland... dated 18/11/2013". Inscribed by the author.
• The Church of Ireland : an Illustrated History / consultant editors, Dr Claude Costecalde & Prof Brian Walker. This book Includes a signed letter to the President from the Most Reverend Dr. Michael Jackson, Archibishop of Dublin and Bishop of Glendalough, Primate of Ireland and Metropolitan, dated April 1st 2014 marking the occasion of "the meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Rabbis of Israel Commission in Dublin March 31 - April 3, 2014."
• Femicide across Europe : theory, research and prevention / edited by Shalva Weil, Consuelo Corradi, Marceline Naudi.
• Everest calling : Ascent of the dark side : The Mallory-Irvine ridge / Lorna Siggins. Inscribed dedication from Dawson Stelfox to the President, dated 2018 (On 27 May 1993, Dawson Stelfox became the first Irishman to conquer the world’s highest mountain).
• A Hundred Years A-Growing: A History of the Irish Girl Guides by Gillian Finan.
The President has also provided a beautifully worded bilingual label for insertion in each book which says:
“Is le léitheoireacht ar scríobhadh leabhair, agus feabhsaíonn an saol le léitheoireacht.“
“Books are made to be read and the more they are read the better life can be.”
As many of the titles are personally inscribed, they will be held in perpetuity, and will be made available for reference only in the Reading Room at Dublin City Library and Archive, and in various Local Studies Collections nationwide. There will also be many available for loan.
You can search for the President’s Collection by doing a keyword search on the online catalogue using:
The President Michael D. Higgins Collection.
Please note that due to the interruption caused by the pandemic, only 275 of the titles have been catalogued to date, but will be added to very soon. Also due to Level 5 restrictions, the libraries are currently closed, so it will not be possible to access the titles for now.
Submitted by Evelyn from Reader Services.