National Library of Ireland hosts its first Diversity and Inclusion Forum

Catherine Gallagher

The forum hosted 70 individuals from diverse communities to discuss issues surrounding gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, membership of the Traveller community or socio-economic status.

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) held its first Diversity and Inclusion Forum last Monday to establish how the library can be more inclusive to the public.

The event was held in collaboration with Creative Ireland, a cross-country government initiative focused on culture and creativity.

The forum hosted 70 individuals from diverse communities to discuss issues surrounding gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, membership of the Traveller community and socio-economic status.

The event comes as part of NLI’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy 2018-2021. It is their action plan aimed at creating a more diverse and representative story of Ireland within the institution.

“The library (NLI) is a public institution and we do not want to be seen as an aloof institution. We want it to be open, equal and accessible,” Director of the NLI Dr Sandra Collins said.

She added, “It came about when the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht requested that we take a look at our policy on gender equality. We decided from there that we would broaden the scope.”

For the first 100 years of the NLI’s existence, senior management was entirely male – today it is 88 per cent female. It currently holds the most comprehensive archive relating to LGBT history in Ireland.

“I am delighted to have participated in the National Library of Ireland’s first Inclusion and Diversity Forum. About 70 of us have been here this morning. We have heard speeches and we have had a lot of round-table conversations. It is a really valuable exercise,” said Tonie Walsh who is the independent curator of the Irish Queer Archive, whose collection was represented in the Special Collections.

The 140-year-old building is currently undergoing renovations in which Enable Ireland is assisting with the developments. Equal access is one of the “top priorities” according to Dr Collins, although she pressed that it is people living with disabilities that are advising recommendations of the improvements.

In the immediate future, contributions from the forum will be assessed. “We will be looking for changes that we can make immediately to our operations. Although we have to be mindful that we may never have enough resources to do everything,” Dr Collins concluded.

 

Catherine Gallagher

Image Credit: NLI Twitter