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

Renate in the library

Renate Ní Uigín

Librarian at King's Inns

I can be dealing with electronic legal databases in the morning and 16th century Irish manuscripts in the afternoon... it’s never dull!


Tell us a little about your role with The King’s Inns and the kind of things that you do.

King’s Inns is Ireland’s Oldest School of Law, we are an independent educational institution, providing professional legal education and training including the Barrister-at-Law degree course, the Diploma in Legal Studies and several part-time courses in specialist areas of the law for people from non-legal backgrounds as well as qualified lawyers. My job is primarily to look after the student collections, we have current legal textbooks and online legal databases, but I also have to look after the heritage collection, which physically occupies about half the library.

What is your favourite part of the job?

The range of activities and opportunities mean that no two days follow the same pattern. I can be dealing with electronic legal databases in the morning and 16th century Irish manuscripts in the afternoon. There might be a lot of ground to cover but it’s never dull! I’ve learnt such a lot since I came here nearly seven years ago.

Tell us about the library section where you work? What are you most proud of?

The Reading Room in the Library Building of King’s Inns is a beautiful space where all four library staff are based. We’re a small team, who deal with a wide range of areas – queries from current students about assignments, genealogical enquiries about past members, questions about our historical collection from academic researchers. I’m very proud of how flexible we’ve become over the past few months, from a very physical based service we’ve moved online, introduced new ‘Reserve and Collect’ and scanning services as well as running online training sessions.

Who was one of the most inspirational or interesting people you have met through your work?

Averil Deverell. She was one of the first two women called to the bar in Dublin in November 1921, along with Frances Kyle. We were fortunate to acquire an archive of Averil’s a couple of years ago, it includes photos, scrapbooks, theatre programmes, games and books, and gives a snapshot of the life of a young woman at the start of the twentieth century, who prior to becoming the first woman to practise at the Law Library in Dublin, drove an ambulance in France during the First World War. This archive led to me meeting lots of interesting people, including during King’s Inns “Celebrating a Century” of the coming into force of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919, which gave me the opportunity to collaborate with people and organisations beyond the legal profession, and enabled me to learn more about other inspirational women and men.

Tell us an interesting fact about your library.

We were a copyright library from 1801 to 1836, which meant that we were entitled to apply for a copy of each book published in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales during that time, so we have a range of titles in our collection that you wouldn’t usually expect to find in a law library!

What was your favourite book as a child?

This is the toughest question! I read all the time as a child and wanted to be a librarian when I grew up because I thought you could read all day, unfortunately I’ve since learnt that this isn’t the case! I loved Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, and Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. I lived down the road from my local library, visited it nearly every week and borrowed these old favourites time and time again.

What are you reading right now?

I always have a few books on the go, so I’m reading Fake Law: The truth about justice in an age of lies by The Secret Barrister, for the first meeting of a new book club that King’s Inns are setting up, The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. I’ve returned to lots of Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh recently, and A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton.

Which of your books is battered from using again and again?

Lots of them! I re-read a good book until it’s become an old friend.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us ...

It’s probably not surprising that I think reading and books are important, but I also think it’s important that everyone should be able to enjoy them, so I’ve been an adult literacy tutor for a number of years.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

While I always wanted to be a librarian growing up, it wasn’t my first career. I changed from being a solicitor to being a librarian, I’ve managed to combine both law and librarianship, and think I’m lucky to have found the job that interests and challenges me every day.

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