Clíona Ní Shúilleabháin worked as an Assistant Librarian in the Library of Trinity College Dublin from 1987 until her untimely death in February 2021. She was a Trinity graduate with a degree in French and Modern Irish. Starting work as a subject cataloguer in Celtic and other languages, over the course of her career, Clíona moved within the Library from Collection Management to Digital Systems and Services and to Reader Services. In Digital Systems and Services, she worked as Electronic Resources Librarian. As Subject Librarian in Reader Services, she supported the staff and students in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies, the School of Religion and the School of Creative Arts and was longstanding member of the Library’s User Education Group.
At the time she joined the Library, her beloved parents were working close by. Her father, Dr Séan O’Sullivan was in the Medical Research Council of Ireland laboratory in Trinity. His team’s breakthrough was a drug based on a natural product extracted from lichen, that became world-renowned in the treatment of leprosy and AIDs-related skin diseases, garnering UNESCO’s science prize “For an outstanding contribution to scientific and technical development in developing countries” Later, Clíona proudly accepted his posthumous award of the Boyle Medal.
Clíona’s mother, Máire, was a librarian in UCD’s Medical Library, based in Earlsfort Terrace. Following in her mother’s professional footsteps was by no means a foregone conclusion: Clíona’s original leanings were towards engineering but she consciously chose to become a librarian in order to have a career with a particular purpose, motivated by the opportunity to make a cultural difference over and above personal gain or advancement.
She had a mastery of languages and spoke and wrote Irish and French fluently. She also spoke Spanish and German and had a working knowledge of Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Breton. Her linguistic and bibliographic interests converged in 2000 when she won the Library-based competition for a bursary with her proposal to visit Paris and research and report on the the-new Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Clíona played a very significant role in strengthening the Irish language in Trinity College Library and in College generally, an effort central to College life, and duly recognised in the College’s Strategic Plan and Irish Language Policy. Her work in this area was recognised by College when the Gradaim na Gaeilge awards were established in Trinity in 2015. This Awards program was created to honour excellent work done on behalf of the Irish language in the University. Clíona was first ever recipient of its Individual Staff Member award.
Clíona worked closely with Oifig na Gaeilge, ensuring the Library’s compliance with the Official Languages Act 2003. She was a member of the group who brought Seomra na Gaeilge to fruition, a permanent, dedicated space in College for Irish language speakers to meet, have coffee, host events or just sit and read in an Irish language environment. She was a member of Coiste na Gaeilge and of the Management Committee of Seomra na Gaeilge and interviewed students each year for the Scéimeanna Cónaithe do MhicLéinn (the Irish Language Students’ Residency Scheme) – an extraordinary boon for the successful students and a major encouragement to Irish-speaking students in College.
She edited and maintained the Library’s Irish language web pages, one of the largest Irish language websites in the University and she monitored the Library’s Irish language signage and publications to ensure that they met the highest standards of spelling and grammar. She brought together staff from the Library and students from the Residency Scheme to create a video about Irish language services in the Library.
With colleagues Colin Brennan and Ella Hassett, she organised a conversation circle for Library staff to provide an opportunity for staff (particularly those who provide Irish language services) to practice their Irish in a comfortable and work-friendly setting.
In addition, Clíona gave guided Library tours through Irish during Freshers’ Week each year, showing new students the Library’s resources and services (Irish and general). She guided Irish language tours of the Book of Kells and the Long Room, a unique service which was availed of by groups from within Trinity and from Dublin secondary schools. The tour gave school students a new insight into the University, demonstrating that the Irish language is alive in Trinity College, and that the public can participate in the College’s heritage.
In all of this activity, Clíona was an outstanding language and cultural activist whose enthusiasm could be felt throughout the Library, the University as a whole and the wider community.
In addition, as a lifelong lover of nature and of wild places and a devoted gardener, Clíona worked with the Trinity Green Campus Committee and contributed her time and creativity to the annual Trinity Green Week.
And yet, Trinity accounted for only a fraction of Clíona’s energy, abilities and activities. Multi-talented and multi-dimensional, she was a musician, singer and song-writer, inveterate traveller, linguist, conservationist, environmentalist, broadcaster, supporter of the arts, literature, poetry, theatre and film. She contributed her expertise to the Irish Traditional Music Archive on Merrion Square and was a founding member and shareholder of Raidió Na Life, hosting its An Port Ard programme on weekend evenings for many years.
Grand niece of Pádraic Colum, Clíona grew up immersed in tales of her poet, novelist and playwright, uncle, and his brilliant wife, Mary, their literary circles in Dublin, Paris and New York, which included Yeats, Joyce and Lady Gregory. His visits back to Ireland as an old man were occasions of great excitement in her home, events she remembered well. Equally revered were photographs of her aunts working with the Yeats sisters in the Dun Emer Press and the Cuala Press. Clíona took over from her mother as custodian of the Pádraic Colum literary estate and spoke about the family with typical authority and vivacity at events such as the annual Longford Pádraic Colum Gathering.
She was a direct link to the Irish Literary Revival and carried within her the same fierce pride and passion in her language and culture.
Clíona’s contribution to last year’s publication, ‘Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublin’ is a reflection of her own personality and outlook. Out of the vast wealth of the Library’s collections, Clíona chose Robert McFarlane’s and Jackie Morris’s ‘The Lost Words: A Spell Book’, a beautiful collection of poems and illustrations to help readers rediscover the magic of the natural world.
Clíona’s text about ‘The Lost Words’ is accompanied by Jackie Morris’s stunning full page illustration of a Hare and Goldfinches and is showcased on the publisher’s webpages. In it she says,
‘…the book’s beauty, wit and wisdom have inspired people of all ages, more conscious now than ever of the perilous state of our natural world … it has been adapted for … dance, theatre, even graffiti … musicians are recreating the poems as songs – conjuring up the magic of this beautiful book in another art form’.
It is entirely apt that Clíona highlighted a beautiful book that wove together nature, language, poetry, music and beauty. These were the hallmarks of her life. These, and infectious enthusiasm, a lively sense of fun, undying interest in people, adherence to truth and to the highest professional and personal standards and above all, friendship and kindness.
Clíona will be sadly missed by friends, colleagues, staff and students, by many others inside and outside Trinity and most of all, by her husband, Tony. A suitable commemoration is being planned in College to honour her memory.
Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
Niamh Brennan, friend and colleague
Programme Manager, Research Informatics, Library of Trinity College Dublin
The Library of Trinity College Dublin has acquired the Beckett archive of the play Rockaby building on its world leading Beckett collections. The Beckett material is being digitised and will be accessible online.
Marking the acquisition of the 1981 play Rockaby, one of the iconic plays of the Beckett canon, an online exhibition curated by Dr Jane Maxwell has been launched today. The entire archive will be made available later this year as part of the Library’s Digital Collections. It includes 30 items of correspondence from Beckett; copies of the original play and its French translation; productions notes; photographs; and a printed commemoration booklet of photographs from the premiere among other items.
The Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett is one of the most famous alumni of Trinity College Dublin. He studied at Trinity, he taught there, and (alone of the many similar honours offered) he accepted an honorary degree from Trinity College in 1959.
In 1969, with the generosity for which he is renowned, Samuel Beckett also founded the Trinity College Beckett Literary Archive Collection with a gift of four notebooks.
The Library of Trinity College has continued to build on this collection in the intervening decades and has become one of the world’s greatest destinations for international research on the man who was the most influential playwright of the 20th century.
Commenting on the significance of the Beckett materials, Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton said:
“The Library of Trinity College Dublin has one of the world’s greatest collections of Beckett archives. The archives relating to the origins and world premiere of the play ‘Rockaby’ is significant for Beckett scholarship, both nationally and internationally. We welcome the opportunity to be able to share these collections with researchers. We are especially grateful for the philanthropic support which made the acquisition of these manuscripts possible as well as their cataloguing and conservation.”
The archives relating to the origins and world premiere of the play contain correspondence with Beckett and copies of both the original play and the French translation – the play’s title in French is ‘Berceuse’ which means both rocking chair and Lullaby.
In 1980, as institutions around the world prepared to commemorate Beckett’s 75th birthday, Daniel Labeille, an American academic and theatre producer, asked Beckett for something new for the festival Labeille was curating for the State University of New York in Buffalo. The great man demurred briefly and then sent a delighted Labeille the play Rockaby. It premiered in the Center for Theater Research the following April, directed by Beckett’s friend Alan Schneider. Brief, as are all Beckett’s late works, it runs for 15 minutes and was a ‘major dramatic event’ with ‘narrative and intellectual substance, some of it subliminal’ (Mel Gussow, New York Times, 12 April 1981
Daniel Labeille, who celebrated his 80th birthday last month, has often spoken of the ‘extraordinary effect’ Beckett had on his life. He says ‘Rockaby’ is among a small handful of Beckett’s late plays, three of which were written in response to requests, but it is the only play of his written in verse form.’
Professor Chris Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College remarked:
“Over the years, as the Library’s collection of Beckett manuscripts has grown to include the largest collection of Beckett correspondence anywhere in the world, that sense of Beckett continuing to be a part of Trinity has only deepened. And now, with the acquisition of these exciting new materials relating to the first production of ‘Rockaby’ scholars have a further opportunity to make that kind of connection with an author’s work that is only possible through studying manuscript materials.”
Exhibition curator Dr Jane Maxwell described two elements of the new collection which are particularly exciting because they are unusual.
“There are the sheaf of handwritten notes which Daniel Labeille took during a conversation with Beckett in a Parisian coffee shop almost exactly 40 years ago, in January 1981. Beckett was always unfailingly helpful to those whom he trusted to bring his work to the stage faithfully. These production notes were central to the formation of the play as we know, and will be of invaluable to students of Beckett’s process.”
Dr Maxwell also draws particular attention to the photographs in the collection:
“People are used to seeing art-quality photographs of Beckett, beautifully shot, staring eagle-like down the lens. These photographs are different. They are casual snapshots, taken when Beckett attended rehearsals for a second performance in London, and they are all the more moving and delightful for their informality.”
Producer Daniel Labeille remarked ‘This production was meaningful to me as it resulted in a collaboration of Beckett’s friend, American director Alan Schneider, together with Beckett’s favoured actress, Billie Whitelaw’. Whitelaw, who died in 2014 was the only actress whom Beckett ever directed himself and he wrote the play Footfalls specifically for her. A film was made of the rehearsals for the premiere of Rockaby, by documentary makers D.A.Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, which uniquely captures the input Whitelaw herself had on the eventual formation of the play.
About the Beckett Collections at the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
The Beckett Literary Archive in the Library was founded in the late 1960s by a gift of four notebooks from Beckett himself. It has been constantly expanded upon in the intervening years and is now one of the world’s greatest collection of original research material relating to Beckett. Beckett’s private correspondence in Trinity, the largest single collection anywhere, includes correspondence with poet and director of the National Gallery of Ireland Thomas MacGreevy; literary critic Barbara Bray with whom Beckett has a long term professional and personal relationship; and artist Henri Hayden and his wife Josette whom Beckett met in the South of France while avoiding the Gestapo in occupied France in WWII. In Trinity also is a first edition of the play Waiting for Godot. Beckett used this volume as a prompt copy when he was directing the first performance of the play in Paris in 1953 and it is filled with crossings out and new text as Beckett learned what would work on stage and what wouldn’t. One of the greatest pieces in the collection is the notebook containing the drafts for the prose text Imagination dead imagine written in the mid-1960s.
The acquisition was made possible through The Friends of the Library which assisted in the purchase of the Rockaby archive and, the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation, which supported the cataloguing, conservation, and imaging of the archive.
Many congratulations to the 46th President of the USA! Mr Biden has visited us here in the Library twice, once as Vice President in 2016 and again in 2017 as a private citizen. We are quietly confident in his making it a third time, if he joins us in Ireland again.
Highlights of the collections of the Library of Trinity College Dublin and their fascinating history are showcased in a new online exhibition Director’s Choice Uncut. The Library invites you to connect and be inspired by a range of diverse objects and their stories in this magnificent new online exhibition selected by the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton. Building on the success of the Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublin published this year by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, this new expanded digital platform features even more of the Library’s treasures.
Ranging from the iconic to the less well known, the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton has selected some of the collections’ unique and precious items in Director’s Choice Uncut. She is joined by her Library staff in the telling of the fascinating stories of each object, which range from the historic to the contemporary. It showcases items acquired over four centuries, since the foundation of the University in 1592.
The great prose satirist Jonathan Swift, Trinity graduate and later Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral was declared of ‘unsound mind and memory’ in 1742. His death mask is thought to have been taken four hours after his death. He died on 19 October 1745, leaving the greater part of his estate to establish St Patrick’s, Ireland’s first hospital for the mentally ill.
John Millington Synge’s typewriter a No. 5 Blickensderfer presents a lightweight, almost spectral mechanism. Synge, who struggled with both spelling and grammar, in producing clean copy for publishers was to use this little machine for the rest of his life, typing every draft of his literary works on it, from the first to final version.
Michael Davitt, the campaigner for land reform and workers’ rights led a life which was defined by profound challenges. A tragedy of immense personal significance was the death of his daughter Kathleen Davitt. His diary shows that he always carried a photograph of Kathleen who died suddenly of tuberculosis while he was travelling to Australia for a lecture tour in 1895. Throughout that year Davitt carried her photograph close to his person, within this poignant little diary.
The marriage certificate of James III and the 17-year-old Polish princess Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702-1735) is a lavishly decorated manuscript. That the union took place at all is nothing short of remarkable given the events that led up to it: the bride was ambushed and imprisoned at Innsbruck, there was a subsequent jailbreak, a chase across Europe involving faked illness, a maid in disguise, lost jewels, forged passports among other eventful occurrences.
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton says:
“We are delighted to be able to share some of the extraordinary items that form part of our magnificent collections through this expanded new digital platform Director’s Choice Uncut. Taking inspiration from the success of the book Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublinpublished earlier this year by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, we decided to further expand the selection of items.These diverse riches represent 3,000 years of creativity, memory and knowledge. We hope you connect with, and are inspired by, these objects over the Christmas period.”
As part of the initiative, there will be a #TCDLibraryTreasures social media campaign, with a reflection on each item, each day over Christmas. Join us in the initiative @tcdlibary and share your thoughts on these wonderful items.
The scientist Rosalind Franklin, the folklorist, dramatist and theatre-founder Augusta Gregory, the mathematician Ada Lovelace and the writer and pioneering women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft have been chosen from a list of more than 500 suggestions.
There are currently 40 marble busts in the beautiful, historic space – all men. As the College recognises that its public spaces must better represent our diversity, it has decided as a first step to introduce a series of sculptures of women.
This is the first time in over a century that the University has commissioned new sculptures for this prestigious location. The first for this space were commissioned in the 1740s, soon after the Library was finished, and the collection was gradually extended in the following years. No new sculptures have been commissioned since the 1880s and no additional sculptures have been installed since the 1920s.
At the end of last year, Provost Patrick Prendergast invited nominations from Trinity students, staff and alumni for new sculpture busts.
Following the principles used for previous commissions, nominations were invited using two criteria; the subjects should be scholars and they should no longer be living. They did not need to be graduates of the University and there was no restriction as to nationality.
The panel, chaired by the Provost and including former Registrars, the Librarian and Academic and Collections experts, received well over 500 nominations covering a wide field of fascinating and deserving women scholars.
Given the strength of the achievements of the nominees, the panel decided on four new commissions, two from the Sciences and two from the Arts and Humanities.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Rosalind Franklin’s scientific discoveries have benefited humanity in several ways. As a fundamental experimentalist, excelling in X-ray crystallography, and despite a career cut short by untimely death at the age of 37, she made two seminal contributions: her impeccable analysis generated key measurements for one of the most transformative advances of the 20th century, uncovering the structure of DNA. Her later work had an equally pivotal impact on revealing the structure of RNA viruses, including early work on the Polio virus. Discoveries in both areas contributed to the awarding of Nobel prizes after her death, though not to her (they cannot be awarded posthumously). While her name is often connected with missing out on a Nobel prize, her legacy is of much greater significance.
Augusta Gregory (1852 -1932)
Lady Gregory became one of the most significant intellectual and creative powerhouses of the Irish Literary Revival. Her work as a writer, dramatist, theatre-founder, champion of the Irish language, translator, folklorist and social commentator helped define and give voice to the tenets of cultural nationalism in the years leading up to, and after, the establishment of the Irish Free State. Today, scholars look to Augusta Gregory’s ground-breaking work for its artistry, for insights into the country’s complex revolutionary period and to explore the role of language and literature in defining Irish identity as distinct, self-determining and heroic, both nationally and internationally.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was the author of an 1843 monograph on Charles Babbage’s design for the first analytical engine (general-purpose computer). To her translation of Menabrea’s report of a presentation made by Babbage in Turin she added her famous Notes, highlighting the potential and flexibility of an analytical engine compared to a calculator. These Notes included an algorithm for computing Bernouilli numbers and presaged computer-generated music, a century before Alan Turing proved that such achievements required properties now intrinsic to computers, which Babbage’s design possessed. Ada Lovelace’s unique contribution was to publish the first recognition of the capacity of a computer to make logical deductions about both numerical and non-numerical objects.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Mary Wollstonecraft was a pioneering women’s rights advocate, and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), often considered a foundational text for women’s rights movements. Radical for her time, she argued that all humans have the faculties of rational thought and reason. She also argued that women must be allowed to be educated and to contribute equally to society, stating in A Vindication, “my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue.”
The next step will be to issue an invitation for expressions of interest from the artistic community. Following a shortlisting process, the finalists will be invited to submit maquettes of their proposed designs, for which there will be financial support. The realisation of the entire commission process is ultimately subject to finance being available, for which funding is being sought.
Even with this exciting new development, the University is aware that women will still represent only 10% of the busts in the Long Room and that the existing subjects do not represent the ethnic and gender diversity that distinguishes the history of scholarship.
As we develop the next steps in this process, the College will welcome contributions and ideas about how best to reflect the full diversity of academic achievement.
Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said;
“The Long Room in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin is one of the most magnificent rooms in the world visited by hundreds of thousands ofpeople most years. I welcome this initiative as a step towards reflecting the university’s diversity in such a nationally significant location.”
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said;
“As the first woman Librarian in the College’s 428-year history, I am especially delighted to champion this initiative to address the historic inequity in the Long Room.”
World Digital Preservation Day 2020 is a good opportunity to give a brief overview of some of our recent digital preservation activities. Digital preservation is essential to ensure that our long-term digital assets are accessible into the future and as the scale and diversity of our digital assets increases so too does the importance of digital preservation. We have been engaged in several initiatives designed to enhance our digital preservation capabilities and to embed the importance of digital preservation in our activities.
The Irish Library community has recently called on the Government, publishers and other stakeholders to recognise, and take action against, the electronic content crisis which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the primary challenges include:
Titles that are not available in ebook format
Titles that are available as ebooks but are not available via an institutional licence
Titles that are available via an institutional licence but are excessive in price
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to close the Library doors, we moved quickly to ensure we could supply access to the ebooks required. On March 12th, we issued a call to undergraduate and postgraduate Directors of Teaching and Learning and a second call on April 28th, to Directors of Research to submit requests for ebooks required to support learning and research. As a result of these calls, during the first six months of the pandemic, we delivered access to 1,500 titles. Costs ranged from an average of €130 to €1,500 per title .
Following Dublin City Council’s recent decision to grant planning permission to Trinity’s conservation and redevelopment plans for the Old Library, staff and students are invited to an online townhall meeting at 4pm on Thursday October 29th 2020 to update you on plans and next steps.
The Chair of the Programme, Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation, Professor Veronica Campbell and Librarian & College Archivist and Programme Sponsor Helen Shenton, will outline the Old Library Redevelopment Project, which will draw on the best 21st-century design and technology to safeguard the Old Library building and conserve its precious collections for future generations. It includes urgent structural and environmental upgrades; the redevelopment of facilities in line with the best library and museum experiences around the world; and a new Research Collections Study Centre. Internationally renowned architects, Heneghan Peng, who successfully conserved and revitalised the National Gallery of Ireland, are leading the design team in this transformative development.
The Old Library holds a special place for all of us in the College community. A Q&A session will follow – if you want to submit a question in advance please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Tom Molloy will be chairing proceedings.
The Provost and Secretary to the College wrote to us yesterday, about the universities being categorised as essential (as identified on the Department of the Taoiseach’s website see Education).
The libraries are essential to the research infrastructures during COVID Level 5, both for access to physical material for researchers and students, and as a safe, calm environment with good connectivity, especially for students.
Minister Simon Harris’ press release yesterday entitled ‘What Level 5 means for Further and Higher Education’ included ‘scheduled access to libraries and other onsite study space for those students who do not otherwise have suitable facilities or home environment to access learning remotely’.
Therefore, balancing supporting the research infrastructure and supporting undergraduates and postgraduates with ensuring our staff’s wellbeing, the libraries will remain open online and continue to be physically open to current staff and students with effect from midnight tonight as follows;
Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher Libraries. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm
Hamilton Library. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm
Joint Research Collections Reading Room in the Old Library. By appointment. Mondays and Thursdays.
John Stearne Medical Library. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm
1937 Postgraduate Reading Room. Online booking. Open Monday to Sunday 8am-8pm
Kinsella Hall. Online booking. From Tuesday 27th October 2020, open for study from 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and from 8am-8pm Saturday and Sunday.
Readers will continue to need to book in advance to gain entry to the Library. To book a visit, please use the ‘book a visit’ link on the Library homepage or go straight to the booking system via this direct link. Existing bookings remain valid except for those outside the new hours detailed above, namely, evenings and Saturdays (the 1937 Reading Room opening hours remain the same so all existing bookings remain valid).
There is access to reading room PCs with UK electronic Legal Deposit material, printing, book retrieval and returns. In addition, the new services of ‘scan on demand’, ‘click and collect’, ‘An Post delivery’ across Ireland continue. We will keep all services under review, and please bear with us if everything is not quite as smooth as usual.
As the Trinity Education Project is celebrated today, a reminder to those students embarking on a capstone project now and in the future, that the Library is a goldmine of material and expertise for your research. Current projects range from the Pollard Collection of Childrens’ books with the School of English to systematic reviews in Human Health and Disease with the School of Medicine. Please contact your Subject Librarian and Research Collections to discuss how the Library can support your research.
Finally, on your behalf, may I pay tribute to the Library staff and other colleagues across College from security to cleaning staff to postgraduate stewards, who are making this level of access to the libraries possible during Covid-19 Level 5.
Dublin City Council has granted planning permission to Trinity College Dublin’s conservation and redevelopment plans for the Old Library, home to the magnificent Long Room and precious manuscripts, including the Book of Kells. This follows last month’s historic unveiling of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display which forms the first component of these redevelopment plans.