The public library is a great equalizer

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					NEWS RELEASE : EMBARGO: WEDNESDAY, 29 OCTOBER, 1PM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE Ireland’s public libraries were celebrated in the 2002 Thomas Davis Lectures on RTÉ Radio. Those lectures have now been published in The University of the People, a new book from the Library Council and RTÉ. The University of the People was officially launched today, Wednesday 29 October, by Martin Cullen, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who funded the publication. Adrian Moynes, RTÉ Head of Radio, also spoke at the launch which took place in the newly restored Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street. The Thomas Davis Lecture Series 2002 on RTÉ Radio 1 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first Carnegie Libraries in Ireland (Dalkey and Banbridge). The contributors to the series included librarians, historians, educationalists and writers. The series was produced by Bernadette Comerford and the consulting editor was Norma McDermott, Director of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna. The public library service has many admirers. Rolling Stone Keith Richards calls it the “great equalizer”, and met Mick Jagger outside one. Oprah Winfrey sees is as the badge of citizenship, while journalist Fintan O‟Toole sees it as the place where we can be “authors of our own destiny”. It is a service that is 150 years old and still going strong. There are 338 public libraries in Ireland attracting 12 million visits and issuing 12 million books every year. The 14 lectures in the book look back to the beginnings of the library movement, and forward to the modern public library of the 21st Century. Fears that the public library would become the “haunt of idlers and readers of trashy novels” were overcome when the first libraries were opened in the late 19th Century. Scots-American billionaire, Andrew Carnegie, the Bill Gates of his time, made his mark on the Irish landscape by funding 80 library buildings, many of which are still in use. In his lecture, Robert Dunbar, well-known expert on children‟s literature writes of the importance of the public library for children‟s reading, while for Declan Kiberd the library is one of the few public places left which are completely open to all. The social history of Ireland comes into focus in historian Diarmaid Ferriter‟s piece, while architect Brendan Grimes looks back to the times when “promiscuous” dancing was banned in Swords library, but Irish dancing was permitted! Coming right up to date, journalist Fintan O‟Toole paints an evocative picture of growing up with the public library. One of his earliest memories is “of holding the hollow aluminium bar of the

pram in which my mother was pushing my little sister as we walked all the way from Crumlin to our nearest public library which was miles away in Thomas Street.” He discovered as a 12 year
old while perusing a dictionary of Australian slang that when you read silently “nobody quite knows what you‟re up to”. For him, the library produces two kinds of people, writers and rebels. Copies of The University of the People are available for loan at local libraries or may be purchased from The Library Council.

ENDS For further information please contact: Brendan Teeling, An Chomhairle Leabharlanna, 01 6761167, bteeling@librarycouncil.ie or Jennifer Taaffe, RTÉ Radio, 01 208 2312, taaffej@rte.ie Note for editors: An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council), established in 1947, is the statutory agency which advises national and local government on public library development in Ireland. An Chomhairle is involved in a range of activities to enhance the role of public libraries in Irish life and promote the use of the service to the public. www.librarycouncil.ie

The Thomas Davis Lectures have been broadcast on Radio Éireann and latterly RTÉ Radio 1 since 1953. It was the distinguished historian, T.W. Moody who suggested that the lectures be named after Thomas Davis, the Young Ireland leader, who had expressed his national philosophy in the phrase, „Educate that you may be free‟. The first series, „Early Irish society‟, had Professor Myles Dillon as its general editor and he himself gave the opening talk, entitled „The Irish language‟, on 27 September 1953. Since then, the lectures have been an integral part of the RTÉ Radio schedule, offering the best in contemporary Irish scholarship to a wide radio audience.