Irish Art Libraries Networking Event, National Gallery of Ireland, December 2019

Arlis 50: Irish Art Libraries Networking Event 

Hosted by the National Gallery of Ireland Library & Archives, Sir Denis Mahon Reading Room & Art Library Reading Room, National Gallery of Ireland, 11 December 2019.



Aims of the event:

  1. To strengthen the network of art libraries in Ireland by inviting representatives from various art and special collection libraries to meet and share ideas about work, ongoing projects and concerns.
  2. To discuss the potential for establishing regular events for art library professionals in Ireland.


Hosted by:  Library & Archives of the National Gallery of Ireland. Participating staff from the NGI Library and Archives team included Andrea Lydon, Catherine Sheridan, Andrew Moore, Mary Clare O’Brien, Donna Rose, Claire Doohan & Grace O’Boyle.

Attendees: Library professionals attended the event from a variety of academic, public and national institutions including the National Irish Visual Arts Library, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology, Royal Dublin Society, National Museum of Ireland, University College Dublin, National Botanic Gardens, GMIT Centre for Creative Arts and Media and the dlr LexIcon Library and Cultural Centre.




Event Overview:

The National Gallery of Ireland Library and Archives is Ireland’s leading research centre for the study of art and art history. Along with the Art Library, the Gallery holds rich archive collections and additional library collections ,including the Yeats Archive, Sir Denis Mahon Library & Archives, Institutional Archive and the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art Library & Archives. The NGI Library and Archives department is dedicated to providing the best possible service for its various researchers and believe that communication between similar institutions in order to learn about new practices is vital to continue this level of service.

With the support of ARLIS UK & Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland Library & Archives hosted a networking event for art library professionals in Ireland on Wednesday 11th December 2019 as means of strengthening the connections between art libraries in Ireland. This was part of the series of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of ARLIS UK & Ireland. Employees were invited from a variety of institutions including academic art libraries, libraries within cultural institutions, public art research facilities and special collection libraries.

The event began with a light lunch in the Sir Denis Mahon Reading Room where attendees had the opportunity to make new connections with library professionals and catch up with old friends.


The attendees were then brought to the Art Library Reading Room where a display of Library and Archive collection highlights were presented. Materials from across the various Library and Archives collections were represented in order to introduce the institution to those who were new to, or less familiar with, the Gallery. The informal nature of the tour also acted as an icebreaker for later discussions.


The group returned to the Sir Denis Mahon Reading Room to engage in a roundtable discussion on current issues in art and special collections librarianship. This began with the library professionals splitting into groups of three and four to discuss the possibilities of an organised Irish Art Libraries network, including topics such as potential structure, staff development opportunities, outreach, and collaboration. Afterwards, each group shared their thoughts with the table.


Many similar ideas arose, making it clear that attendees had a shared interest in developing an organised network of art libraries in Ireland. Some recurring topics included:

  • Work shadowing and placements between libraries
  • Collaboration regarding venues, seminars, exhibitions, publications and tours for groups including third level students
  • Digital outreach through shared online portals
  • Holding further Irish Art Library events where each institution takes a turn hosting thereby allowing for all art libraries to become better acquainted with each other’s facilities and collections
  • Creating an Art Research guide to Dublin (or Ireland)/ Updating the ARLIS Guided
  • Applying for joint grant funding
  • Sharing expertise on various areas including artists’ books cataloguing, collections as teaching aids and digitisation strategies.



As the event took place in the run-up to Christmas, it closed with some festive mulled wine with further discussion about the next steps in for the Irish Art Libraries network.


The Library and Archives of the National Gallery of Ireland would like to thank ARLIS UK & Ireland for making this event possible through their generous support.

Andrea Lydon

Library and Archives, National Gallery of Ireland