Galway County Libraries, 84 Years On
March 6th, 2008
This photograph was taken in May 1934 at a Galway Library conference in UCG. It shows the Galway County Library stand with library assistant Kathleen Ronaldson who would later be appointed librarian in Co. Mayo. The stand has a map showing the location of branches all over the county, and a lot of posters encouraging people to use the library system and to read more. There are slogans like "The library belongs to you...use it....support it....do your part to help it grow" or "Read with a purpose, we will help you plan a reading course" or, "To read much is to learn much...use the libraries". Some of the posters advertise war books, detective stories , westerns, biographies, drama, books on travel, gardening, patriotism, books for girls etc.. A significant number are in Irish.
The public library of today is a democratic place intimately linked by tradition, by custom and even by law with it's historic backgrounds. The spiritual essence and inner core of the library remains the same as it was in antiquity..... that inner core is knowledge, the knowledge of the world, preserved and cherished and made available more and more in useful and accessible forms for the people. A library should be a liberating force, a place from which to advance toward the creation of new uses for it's ancient treasure house.
The inaugural meeting of the County Galway Library Committee was held in the Courthouse on Sept. 9th, 1924. It was supported by the Carnegie Trust. The meeting was chaired by Lennox Robinson representing the Trust and Sam Maguire, Library Organiser. Eamonn Corbett was appointed chairman of the committee and Lady Gregory and Prof. Howley as vice-chairmen. Lady Gregory mentions library meeting in her diaries and talks of Sam Maguire going to the Bishop of Killaloe for some help in establishing the service. "I would do nothing to add a halfpenny to the rates" said the bishop, "I am against libraries because people have too much independence and too much education". Prof. Howley was a philosopher and librarian in UCG.
A County book repository was established and located in Bishop's Court, Augustine Street. When the committee ceased to act in 1926, the library system transferred to Galway County Council, which then delegated it's power to a County Library committee. It was made up of County Councillors and clergy and teachers.....'ten or twelve men not much interested in literature but in a common effort to help a good cause' to quote Lady Gregory. Sam Maguire, co-ordinator of the Carnegie Scheme, continued to act in that capacity, with the title later amended to County Librarian. The County Council took official control of the Carnegie Libraries on July 1st, 1926.
Sam Maguire was an innovative and visionary man, and gradually built up the service. In 1934, the library transferred to the Courthouse and a children's library and reference facilities were provided. In the forties and fifties, library centres were established in 30 locations in the County. When Sam retired he was replaced by Sean Bohan and he in turn by Tom Sharkey. Pat McMahon is the current County Librarian. More than half a million books are loaned out by the service every year. The library headquarters in Island House, Galway has an outstanding collection of County Galway material in their reference section and their staff are most helpful to those doing research.
This week is Library week, and many of the branches around the county are hosting events such as exhibitions, demonstrations, readings and lectures. Check with your local branch for details.
The Galway Archeological and Historical Society are hosting a lecture in the Harbour Hotel on Monday next, the 10th at 8pm. It will be given by Professor Michael O'Connell on the subject "Long term human impact in Western Ireland ; New pollen records from bogs and lakes", and all are welcome.
The Western Family History Asociation will host a lecture entitled "The History of the Birminghams of County Galway" in Oranmore Lodge on Wednesday 12th at 8.15pm. It will be given by Professor Paul Mohr, and again, all are welcome.
Please forward any queries/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
|View the Old Galway Archive|