Meet the Librarian

At the helm of every library are the wonderful librarians who ensure that each building is a welcoming place with opportunities for learning, wonderment and joy. A happy side-effect of a librarian’s job is that they have an incredible depth of knowledge of books and of all the great things happening in their community. We wanted to hear more about what they do…

This Month

Mairead Owens Dublin City Librarian

Mairead Owens

City Librarian

Mairead, you have had a long career across a variety of sectors, tell us a little bit about it and the different roles you have held over the years.

After graduating from university in the mid-eighties, I qualified as a librarian. I was appointed as the Business Information Librarian to the state venture capital company, the National Development Corporation. When that was subsumed into the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), I was employed by the National Gallery of Ireland, where my role was to generate interest in the then proposed extension on Clare Street. I also helped in the promotion of the IBM sponsored exhibition of Master European paintings which travelled to four cities in the United States. This was a tremendous experience.

After several years I joined the charity Co-operation Ireland as the Fundraiser. This was a cross border role and I met many interesting people. Subsequently I was headhunted to work for Dublin City University (DCU) as the Director of Development in the Trust Office which had no tradition of fundraising. I established the Alumni Office and secured charitable status for the university in America. I worked very closely with the Board of Trustees.

After several years commuting across the city before the days of the M50, I took up a position at Dublin Chamber of Commerce as Director of Marketing and Membership.

In 2002, I made the most important decision of my career when I joined dlr Libraries as a temporary librarian. Within six years I was appointed County Librarian. After ten years in Dun Laoghaire I wanted another challenge and joined Dublin City Council in April 2019 as the City Librarian.

And your current role as City Librarian with Dublin City Libraries - tell us about the projects you work on and what they involve. Do you have a typical day?

I am so honoured to be the City Librarian. The position is challenging and the role diverse. I manage 21 library buildings across the city with a team of circa 280 staff.

The team is amazing and work in a variety of roles to provide a valued service to library users and to promote books and reading at every available opportunity.

In more recent times we have worked to promote digital literary and I see this focus continuing into the future. We have responsibility for managing the UNESCO City of Literature where we support various initiatives including the International Literature Award, One City One Book and many other projects.

DCC Libraries also provide a library service to the prisons. As you can imagine the demands of the role vary considerably on a daily basis. I enjoy this challenge and relish pushing the boundaries.

Apart from your current one, which library or role stands out most in your memory and why?

I was County Librarian in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown for ten years. During this time dlr LexIcon (Central Library) was designed and built in the county. It is the most prestigious public library space in the country and has transformed the provision of service to the public. The LexIcon has set a very high standard for other public libraries across the country.

Name one of the most inspirational/ interesting people you have met through your work.

I have been fortunate to meet many inspirational people during my career including many captains of industry and of course the leaders in the various institutions where I worked. However, I was blown away by the generosity of Chuck Feeney. In Co-operation Ireland I was conscious of his support for the peace process in Ireland.

When I joined Dublin City University I was astounded to see the impact he was having on all of the Irish universities. His generosity and passion for education assisted in the development of the institutions that we have in Ireland today. Chuck was unassuming, kind in spirit as well as financially. He is an amazing individual and did so much good with his wealth across the world.

What was your favourite book or author as a child? Tell us about it.

I was a child of the sixties and seventies and loved the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. I always thought it sounded wonderful to escape to boarding school with tuck boxes and plans for midnight feasts. I was also a big fan of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and again had plans about escaping to a desert island. My poor parents were wonderful and would have been horrified to know that I was fascinated about living in other realities.

Is there one book you think every child should read?

I love to see children curling up with any book. I would not even try to decide on the book every child should read as interests, moods, thoughts are all so different. However there is a special book for all children and the one I read time and again was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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