Welcome from the Library of Trinity College Dublin

 A very warm welcome to all students, academics, researchers and staff. An especial welcome to the first year students who are joining us in such extraordinary times − we wish you every success in the University, as you rise to the challenges of Trinity’s Graduate Attributes of ‘thinking independently’ and ‘acting responsibly’. The Library is here to help you think independently.

Library staff are here to assist you with virtual consultations, skills workshops and many services. Watch out for Library HITS (Helpful Information for Trinity Students/Staff) our interdisciplinary taster sessions, co-delivered with Student Learning & Development, covering everything from getting started with the Library, to academic integrity and critical thinking. We’ve recently been proud to partner with Disability Student Ambassadors to deliver small-group tours for students with sensory disabilities, which is helping us better understand how to improve the Library experience for all students.

Library staff are not only very knowledgeable about Trinity’s extensive resources but are extremely savvy about other external sources of information. During lockdown, when there was no physical access to the buildings, Library staff displayed extraordinary ingenuity in helping readers get alternative access to information. Please contact us via live chat on the Library website, email Library@tcd.ie and a Library staff member will get back to you, or contact your Subject Librarian directly. Our New Students page has everything you need to get started.

COVID update

On lockdown in March, the Library accelerated online access to material and increased e-resources. Since June, the Library has reopened all the buildings in phases and has created several new services from scratch. These include ‘Click & Collect’, ‘Scan on Demand’, and retrieval and delivery of Library material across Ireland via An Post.

Under the current COVID-19 Level 3, all the libraries are open. Today, 5th October, a new booking system for the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher, Hamilton and John Stearne Medical libraries and the 1937 Postgraduate Reading Room begins. Full details are online of all the opening hours and the booking system. Please note that face coverings are mandatory in the Library at all times, along with all other COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including two-metre social distancing and a ‘keep right’ policy.

The Library has been very active over the last six months in building an archive reflecting the TCD community’s experience of living with a pandemic. We are shortly going to invite students to add to this archive by giving us their impressions of student life under the new arrangements. There will be prizes!


The Library purchases e-journals, e-books and databases to support your learning and research. Our off-campus access page provides information and tools to ensure you can access these resources seamlessly.

This year, transformative Open Access agreements were negotiated through the IReL Consortium which will allow for the publication of articles by authors from member institutions on an open access basis at no additional cost. The IReL Consortium (Irish Research e-Library) provides Irish higher education institutions, including Trinity, with access to over 40,000 e-journals and other information resources. The first of these transformative agreements was signed with the global scientific and health publisher Elsevier to support open access for research in Ireland.


In a joint initiative between the Dean of Research and the Library, Trinity has joined the Irish ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) Consortium, which is part of a co-ordinated approach to the adoption and integration of ORCID services and resources in Ireland, directed by the Higher Education Authority.

Every researcher has free access to, and use of, an ORCID ID linked to a personal ORCID research profile. As a unique, lifelong digital identifier, a researcher’s ORCID ID reliably connects them with their works, awards, affiliations; it alleviates mistaken identity; each researcher owns and controls their record; it saves time as the information is ‘entered once and reused often’ and further integrates ORCID with Trinity’s Research Support System. We would encourage academic and research staff and students to use their unique ORCID ID, see full details and ORCID registration.

Open Scholarship

Over the last year ‘Unboxing Open Scholarship’, an initiative of the Taskforce on Open Scholarship, welcomed over 750 people to 12 events on subjects ranging from Citizen Science to Research Impact & Evaluation in an Open Scholarship era, to ‘Curing the Pathologies of Academic Publishing’ with the co-founder of PLOS (Public Library of Science).

Our final events are shifting online. On October 8th 2020, we will be joined by Professor Margot Finn, President of the Royal Historical Society (RHS) and University College London’s Chair in Modern British History, for a webinar jointly hosted with Trinity Long Room Hub, on ‘Open Scholarship in the Humanities’. On October 15th, Gareth O’Neill, Open Science Consultant at the Technopolis Group will explore the role of researchers in the European Open Science Cloud.

The aims of the Taskforce on Open Scholarship were to take the temperature of how far Trinity should go along the road to Open Scholarship (what is obligatory? where do we actively follow? where do we lead?); to determine the scope of Open Scholarship (including Open Access and Citizen Science); and to identify steps and cultural change, including by curating events such as ‘Unboxing Open Scholarship’. The recommendations will shortly be presented to help advance the strategic objective in the University’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025, namely to ‘Lead on Open Scholarship and promote Open Access publication’.

 New Treasury and Book of Kells display case and the Old Library Redevelopment Project

A recent highlight has been the re-opening of the newly refurbished Treasury and Book of Kells display case. The Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin TD, joined by her husband, Deputy Francis Noel Duffy, visited the new Treasury earlier this month, and we publicly launched the new Treasury – see Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1; RTE 1 Television One O’clock News; 6.01 News  (Scroll to  17.34 ); RTE News YouTubeRTE online; BBC Evening Extra (scroll to 1.49), Irish Times hardcopy & online version; Irish Independent hardcopy & online; and Irish Central  – among others.

When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, please arrange to visit the Book of Kells in its stunning new display case, by emailing the Visitor Services Team bookofkells@tcd.ie who will organise a ticket.

The new Treasury is the first step of the Old Library Redevelopment Project, one of the major capital projects of Inspiring Generations – The Campaign for Trinity College Dublin. The Old Library Redevelopment Project is a very significant undertaking to conserve and protect the Old Library and its collections, to create a new Research Collections Study Centre, and to create a new exhibition, temporary display space and new visitor facilities. The integrated design, by the award-winning architects Heneghan Peng, was approved by Board in the summer to apply for planning permission to Dublin City Council.

Virtual Trinity Library

This coming year will also see progress on components of the Library’s second capital programme, the digital corollary to the Old Library project, namely the ‘Virtual Trinity Library’. By digitising the Library’s vast unique and distinct collections, we aim to create a new research entity that is open for the world. Funding has been secured from the Dutch Government to start the Fagel Collection Project in collaboration with the Royal Library of the Netherlands, and inaugural activities and events will start in the autumn.

As part of the flagship Virtual Trinity Library programme, the Library’s digitised collections will be made available in the new Digital Collections repository. We invite you to explore some of our more well-known treasures as well as many hidden gems in all their magnificent detail on this new platform.

And finally

A library is many things. It is both virtual and physical. Mary Beard recently described a library as ‘really, really edgy’ saying that ‘what is on the shelves is incendiary’. The Bodleian Librarian Richard Ovenden’s recently published Burning Books is a harsh reminder of the symbolism and political threat that libraries can represent. The library as physical sanctuary was brutally reinforced during lockdown.

When we had to close, the role of the Library as a safe oasis, with very good connectivity, conducive to study in the maelstrom of noise and worry, came sharply into focus. I was incredibly moved by the accounts of the plights of, for example, postgraduates and their descriptions of the Library as a haven where they could think and concentrate.

Whichever version of the virtual and/or physical Library you use, I wish you every success in the coming academic year.


Helen Shenton

Librarian & College Archivist

Trinity unveils New Book of Kells Treasury and Display Case

The new Book of Kells Treasury and display case were unveiled in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin today [September 14th, 2020]. The ninth century manuscript, one of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures, will be showcased in all its magnificence in an exclusively designed case in the newly refurbished Treasury. It will provide an even more inspiring visitor experience, and signals a revitalisation of the culture, heritage and tourism sectors as the country emerges from COVID-19.

Marking the historic occasion, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin, said:

 “The opening of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display case is one of the most positive developments for the country’s culture, heritage and tourism sectors this year. It heralds a period of renewal and innovation for cultural organisations across Ireland. Trinity has safeguarded this priceless manuscript with leading technology and preventive conservation, ensuring the optimum environmental conditions, security and visual display. The conservation and preservation of our heritage for generations to come is of national importance. It ensures that this global icon will continue to be admired and studied by millions currently and into the future.”

The selected pages for the opening are from the Gospel of St Matthew, of the Virgin and Child (folio 7v) and Breves Causae (folio 8r).

World leading engineers, Goppion who designed cases for the Mona Lisa, the Crown jewels, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, exclusively designed the case.

The precious ninth-century manuscript will be viewed for the first time on a plinth in a free-standing tower, providing an inspiring experience to visitors. It will facilitate every single page to be displayed, on a rotating basis. This will include some of its most ornate pages which have not been on public display for many decades. The management of the display case incorporates best practice in stewardship of world heritage.

The Treasury housing the ornate manuscript has also been beautifully refurbished with spectacular wall-covering, magnifying the exquisite, ornate detail of the manuscript, together with special lighting that will also enhance the viewer’s experience.

The new display case and Treasury refurbishment was funded by Fáilte Ireland and a gift from donors, Carol and Murray Grigor.

Fáilte Ireland Head of Product Development, Orla Carroll said: ‘Fáilte Ireland was delighted to invest in this project to enhance one of Ireland’s best-known tourism experiences. The Old Library, and the Book of Kells, which has been on display in Dublin since the 19th Century, is one of Dublin’s most popular attractions. The enhanced visitor experience unveiled today is a perfect example of how innovative technology and smart orientation can be used to enrich the story of Ireland’s rich culture and heritage so that Dublin can continue to offer a high quality experience to tourists and locals looking to explore their own city, for many years to come.”

The Book of Kells is a globally recognised cultural icon. The lavishly decorated manuscript of the four Gospels is set apart from other manuscripts of the same period by the quality of its artwork and the sheer number of illustrations that run throughout the 680 pages of the book. It is bound in four separate volumes, one for each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The selected pages for the opening are from the Gospel of St Matthew, of the Virgin and Child (folio 7v) and Breves Causae (folio 8r) which will be viewed for the first time in 30 years. This is the only major depiction of a woman in the entire Book of Kells. It is also the earliest known surviving image of the Virgin and Child in Western manuscript art.

The Book of Kells is chief among the collection of acclaimed Insular manuscripts currently housed in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin. The Old Library’s manuscripts and world-class research collections span millennia and are viewed by millions of visitors and scholars.

 Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: “We are delighted to be opening the new Treasury to the public. This new display case reflects the importance and beauty of the world-famous Book of Kells with its magnificent artistry and ornamentation, a unique icon admired by millions. It has been designed to protect the manuscript while providing an enhanced viewing experience for visitors. The Book of Kells has inspired generations of visitors, students and academics and will continue to do so for future generations as we preserve it with the highest conservation standards and the best technology.”

 Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “Safeguarding the Book of Kells is imperative for the preservation and promotion of European culture and heritage. The Book of Kells is intrinsic to our history and culture and continues to be a source of innovation. The opening of the new Treasury is the first phase of Trinity’s ambitious redevelopment plans for the national heritage site of the Old Library in its unique dual role as a world-class library and a national cultural institution. The Old Library Redevelopment Project will conserve the Old Library and its world class research collections for the next century and beyond.”

The Old Library redevelopment project is a centrepiece of Trinity’s current philanthropic fundraising campaign, ‘Inspiring Generations’.  Central to the redevelopment plans is the conservation and protection of the 18th-century building along with its precious manuscripts and research collections, for generations to come.


Media Coverage: Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1; RTE 1 Television One O’clock News; 6.01 News (Scroll to  17.34 ); RTE News YouTubeRTE online; BBC Evening Extra (scroll to 1.49), Irish Times hardcopy & online version; Irish Independent hardcopy & online; and Irish CentralIrish Post

Book of Kells pages on display for the opening (folios 7v-8r).

About the pages:

Two pages from the Gospel of St Matthew have been selected for the historic opening (folios 7v-8r). The first page (folio 7v) is of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin Mary is seated on a throne, holding the child Jesus on her knee. This is the only major depiction of a woman in the entire Book of Kells. It is also the earliest known surviving image of the Virgin and Child in Western manuscript art. The central figures are surrounded by four angels and framed by a border of animal interlace.

Six profile heads in the lower right-hand border direct the viewer’s gaze to the text on the facing second page Breves Causae (folio 8r), connecting the imagery across both these beautiful pages. Breves Causae is a list of contents for the Gospel of St Matthew written in a highly ornamented display script, declaring the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea.

The Treasury

The Treasury housing the ornate manuscript has been beautifully refurbished with wall-covering magnifying the ornate detail of the manuscript. The wallpaper is a magnification of folio 130r of the Book of Kells.

About the Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is one of the world’s greatest medieval treasures. It is a lavishly decorated copy of the four gospels written in Latin with supporting texts. It is set apart from other manuscripts of the same period by the quality of its artwork and the sheer number of illustrations that run throughout the 680 pages of the book.  It was intended for ceremonial use on special occasions such as Easter rather than for everyday use. It is not known exactly when the Book of Kells was written but it is thought that it may have been around 800 AD.  It was written and illustrated by hand by three monks using all of their own handmade materials including vellum, inks and pigments. It is believed that the Book of Kells was written in a monastery founded by St Colum Cille on Iona in Scotland. Viking raids were widespread at the time of the creation of the Book of Kells and it became too dangerous for the monks to continue living on the island. Terrified by the raids, the monks fled from Iona to their sister monastery in Kells, Co Meath, around 806AD. It is not known if the book was written wholly in Iona or if part of it was written in Kells, but we know that it remained in Kells throughout the Middle Ages and eventually, it was placed in the Library of Trinity College by Bishop Henry Jones of Meath in 1661.




Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries reopen for essential study: Resumption of activities next steps

Pomodoro Sphere

Today we are opening our doors to the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries as part of the phased resumption of Library activities. We know how much the libraries mean to all of us at Trinity, and just how much disruption to research, teaching and learning has been caused by COVID-19.

Our reopening is focused on the essential needs of academic staff, postgraduate students and undergraduate students who may be sitting reassessments. There is also an expanded range of new services, including ‘Click and Collect’, ‘Scan on Demand’ and a postal delivery service, supporting those working remotely − further details here.

Access for external/visiting readers is not possible at this time but please keep an eye on the Library homepage for updates. The situation may change as we approach the start of teaching term on the 28th September 2020.

The safety of our staff and students is foremost in this process, ensuring a safe working and studying environment. The safety protocols that will be in place for the physical reopening will be as follows:

  • Reading rooms in Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries will open for individual study and self-service borrowing
  • There will be no counter services and no group study activities
  • Social distancing will be in place across all reading rooms (chairs at least 2m apart)
  • There will be a ‘keep right’ policy and readers will be asked not to congregate anywhere in the building
  • The Library will make hand gel and wipes available at key locations throughout the buildings
  • Access to the Berkeley/Lecky/Ussher complex is via the Berkeley Library only (Lecky entrance in the Arts Block is closed)
  • The opening hours in the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton will be 09:30 – 17:00 (Mon-Fri)
  • The John Stearne Medical Library will reopen on 10th August with limited hours; in the interim, materials held there can be requested via the new services (‘Click & Collect’ etc).

There will be signage to assist you in observing these protocols which are in keeping with HSE guidelines. For those intending to use the Library, I would encourage you to plan your study and research in advance.

The reopening of the physical Library is being phased in keeping with Trinity’s overall health and safety guidelines and the government roadmap. The most recent phase on 29th June, involved the reopening of Kinsella Hall for the essential research needs of postgraduates and early stage researchers. Based on their feedback, we know it was hugely beneficial for those who availed of it. One postgrad wrote ‘I have got more done in the past two hours than I did in the past two months’. We hope that today’s further reopening will help others who need on-site Library study space and services.

Access to all Library reading rooms, including Manuscripts & Archives and Early Printed Books (as well as the Book of Kells exhibition), will resume on August 10th. Please continue to consult the Library’s Academic Continuity Guide on the Library website for regular updates.

I look forward to welcoming you all back in person as our resumption plans progress.

Helen Shenton, Librarian & College Archivist


Reopening of the Physical Library

As part of Trinity College Dublin’s overall plans for the resumption of activities the reopening of the physical Library and services will be phased and gradual. The safety of our staff and students will at all times remain our priority throughout this process.

“When we had to close the library buildings, we kept the Library open online and continued to provide students and staff with our Library services throughout COVID-19, including online services and virtual consultations. I am delighted that the reopening of the physical Library will now begin, starting on a modest scale, from the end of this month, culminating with virtually full access in August (with social distancing and other safety measures in place.) All of this will be complemented by a range of new online services starting on June 29th through to August. The overarching goal is the safe resumption of activity within the Library in a phased manner that enables access whilst protecting the health and safety of our readers and our Library staff.  We very much look forward to opening our doors once again to our readers,” says Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton.

Continue reading “Reopening of the Physical Library”

Honouring the pioneering work of Professor M.L. Colker

Illuminating the Middle Ages which showcases the treasure trove of medieval Latin manuscripts in the Library is this week’s choice of exhibition in the online exhibition series. Professor M.L Colker who created the first comprehensive catalogue of the Library’s medieval Latin manuscript collection sadly passed away last week. We pay tribute to his pioneering work by revisiting this exhibition curated in his honour.

In the 1950s, Marvin ‘Mark’ Colker of the University of Virginia embarked on the Herculean task of cataloguing this collection, comprising around 450 manuscripts.Over the course of 30 years, Colker made regular visits to Dublin, spending long hours working tirelessly in the manuscripts reading room at the Library. His dedication resulted in the publication of Trinity College Dublin Library: Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Latin Manuscripts (Dublin, 1991), fondly referred to as the ‘Colker Catalogue’. His ground-breaking work is the cornerstone for any project or research based on the Latin manuscripts.

By way of tribute, an exhibition entitled Illuminating the Middle Ages showcases the diversity of material made accessible to researchers through Colker’s commitment and expertise. The online exhibition features vividly illuminated psalters, a vibrantly decorated Book of Hours, a handbook for classical learning and a thirteenth-century copy of Peter Lombard’s Sentences. It also includes images from the Book of Armagh, the sumptuously decorated Dublin Apocalypse, as well as a unique handbook for confessors.

Colker’s work was also honoured with the publication of a special edition of Hermathena: a Trinity College Dublin Review — the Department of Classics’ journal which has been published without interruption since 1873. The special issue of Hermathena was edited by Anna Chahoud, Professor of Latin.

The collection, entitled Fabellae Dublinenses Revisited and other Essays in Honour of Marvin Colker, includes essays by scholars from Trinity College (John Scattergood, Edward McParland, Anna Chahoud) and abroad (Thomas Smith, Ernesto Stagni, Giulio Vannini, Ornella Rossi, Silverio Franzoni). The collection of essays gives special attention to the text known, after Colker’s discovery in TCD MS 602, as ‘Petronius Redivivus’. The studies partly engage with Colker’s pioneering research on select Latin manuscripts (MS 602, MS 632) and partly offer a complementary tribute to the extraordinary value of Trinity Library collections for literary, historical and architectural inquiries (MS 115, MS 496, Fagel Collections I.1.95).

Dublin Apocalypse, folio 3v (Early 14th century)

Celebrating Irish Artist Harry Clarke

One of Ireland’s most renowned artists, Harry Clarke, is celebrated in the first of a series of Library online exhibitions which will be showcased in this extended period of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Clarke Stained Glass Studios Collection is for anyone interested in 20th-century Irish art and craft as exemplified by the creative genius of the leading exponent of stained glass work, Harry Clarke.

Continue reading “Celebrating Irish Artist Harry Clarke”

Hist250 exhibition celebrates ‘The Greatest of all Schools of Oratory’

An exhibition marking the 250th anniversary of the College Historical Society ‘The Greatest of all Schools of Oratory’ was officially opened in the Long Room in the Old Library.

‘The Hist’ as it is more popularly known is the world’s oldest student debating society. The Society has been the premier intellectual forum in Ireland and has been at the forefront of College life since its inception in 1770. As well as providing the scene for Edmund Burke, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet’s first steps into political debate, the Society has played a part in the formative years of great Irish writers such as Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett, all former members. The Society is also noted for its guest speakers from Winston Churchill to Edward Kennedy to Margaret Atwood among many others.

The Society’s records are held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The collection includes meeting minute books, debate attendance registers, lists of members, medals, accounts, photographs and correspondence.

Group photo of the officers on the Committee of the College Historical Society, 1872-73. Seated in the centre is the Auditor Bram Stoker.

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: We are delighted to be hosting this important exhibition marking the Hist’s 250th anniversary in the Old Library, showcasing some of the highlights of the debates over the centuries involving notable members, ranging from the renowned author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, to the former Tánaiste, Mary Harney. The student debating society has documented life in Ireland and the challenges it faced over the decades. It continues to do so and is a critical component of student life in Trinity.”

The first meeting of the College Historical Society took place on Wednesday, 21 March 1770. It was a time of great change in Ireland and the Western world, at the height of the Enlightenment and before the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. From its inception it showed itself to be at the forefront of intellectual thought in Ireland, and many of its members later went into politics.

Highlights from the  archives include the  1747 minute book of [Edmund] ‘Burke’s Club’, which inspired the foundation of the Hist, a photograph of the 1872-73 committee featuring Bram Stoker as Auditor, a signature book signed by Wolfe Tone, a photograph of the first Hist debate chaired by a woman, and medals awarded for skill in oratory and composition.

In the 1870s Edward Carson was a Librarian on the committee, and as such had responsibility for keeping the attendance book at meetings. The attendance book is not only notable for its list of attendees, but even more so for the topics being debated each week, spanning questions such as the role of women in society and the relationship between Church and State. In February 1872 the following motion was debated: ‘That the social and political disabilities of women should be abolished’. ‘A.Stoker’ was in attendance and spoke against the motion.

These items form just a small part of a treasure trove of records in the archives of the Hist, which are available for consultation by all who have an interest in the history of ‘The Greatest of all Schools of Oratory’.

Chancellor of the University, Professor Mary McAleese opened the exhibition  and also launched the history of the Society by Trinity’s Professor Patrick Geoghegan.

Co-curators of the exhibition are Ellen O’Flaherty of Research Collections at the Library of Trinity College Dublin and Ursula Quill, former Hist member, and director of the Hist250 celebrations.

Commenting on the exhibition, Ursula Quill said: “”This exhibition was the result of a rewarding collaboration between students on the current Hist committee and the Library of Trinity College as part of the Hist250 celebrations. Finding records of the debates that members such as Wolfe Tone, Bram Stoker and Conor Cruise O’Brien spoke at, or attended, was a reminder of the rich history of the Society in its 250th year. We also found plenty of colourful material, including drawings, jokes, and satirical verse, which was also a reminder that the Hist has always been a vibrant student society on campus. There is a wealth of material in the archive and the items on display were chosen to represent the story of the Society since its foundation, right through to the modern day.” 

Ellen O’Flaherty added: “The College Archives in the Library contains a treasure trove of records relating to the academic, administrative and social history of the University.  The Hist archive is one of the more comprehensive of the student society records and gives a fascinating insight into the history not only of the Society but of student life through the centuries.  We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work in collaboration with current members of the Society on this exciting project.”