Louth County Library Service

In 1934 the Louth County Library service was established (under the Local Government Act of 1925) and the Dundalk Free Library became the centre of the county wide service, with Ms Mary B. Clarke as the first County Librarian. The confrontation between Lennox Robinson and Dundalk’s previous librarian seems to have had no lasting consequences, as a later application for grant aid in respect of the establishment of the County Library service was approved by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. The first instalment of this grant of 950 was paid in 1935. Application for the balance (550) was approved in the following year but a further special application in respect of a supplemental book grant for Dundalk Library met with the following response from Colonel J.M. Mitchell, Secretary of the CUKT:

‘The special application in respect of Dundalk might perhaps be considered under the Trustees’ new policy which is designed to encourage the amalgamation of small municipal libraries with their County schemes. I gather that the service provided at Dundalk before the establishment of the County Library was not very effective, but perhaps you could give me some figures for the previous year or two’

One piece of information sought by Colonel Mitchell was, ‘some indication as to the value of the service to the public’ (Correspondence between Colonel J.M. Mitchell, Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, to Miss Mary B. Clarke, County Library , Chapel Street , Dundalk , dated May 1, 1936). The information supplied by Ms Clarke was obviously sufficient for the Trustees and the supplementary grant of 250 for the purchase of books was provided.

The Louth County Library Service’s centre in Dundalk opened on July 6 1936 with a stock of 2,000 and 1,208 registered borrowers. In a letter to the CUKT, the librarian Ms Clarke wrote: ‘The number of borrowers is increasing rapidly and also the number of issues and the shelves – especially the fiction sections – are beginning to look very bare’ (Correspondence between M.B. Clarke and J.M. Mitchell dated October 1 1936).

By the end of 1937 it was reported that the Dundalk centre was open for six hours daily and in the second annual report of the Louth County Library Committee, Ms. Clark was moved to observe that ‘The demand for a Children’s Library in the Dundalk Centre is evidenced by the numbers of children who keep coming to enquire if they may join. It is a matter which should engage the attention of the Committee during the coming year’ ( Second annual report of Louth Library Committee for year ending 31st December, 1937).

In 1994, after more than 90 years, the town’s library moved from the former Grammar School in Chapel Street to the County Library headquarters and branch facilities in the newly renovated Distillery buildings in Roden Place. The Reference Library, on the second floor, houses one of the most comprehensive collections of local studies material in Ireland . Amongst its many special collections is the Peadar O’Dubhda collection. The scholar and author Peadar O’Dubhda was appointed a member of the first Comhairle Leabharlanna in 1948. The Public Libraries Act, 1947 established An Chomhairle Leabharlanna for the purpose of accepting from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust the gift to the State of the Irish Central Library for Students. The Library was officially transferred to An Chomhairle on July 1 1948. Peadar O’Dubhda was nominated by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland and served for two years.

You can find detailed information about the current library by reading the entry for Dundalk Branch Library and Louth County Library Headquarters on the Library Buildings database – www.librarybuildings.ie.

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