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INCONSPICUOUSLY tucked away near the head of the Coombe, one of the poorer sections of poor Dublin, is a treasure of the Western world—a centuries‐old library that was once the haunt of Dean Swift and others of a bygone Anglo‐Irish literary set; a library that was the proud boast of two nations but that today knows only a few tourists and even fewer scholars. This is St. Sepulchre—known more popularly as Marsh's Library. Within its red brick walls, quietly collecting dust in surroundings unchanged from the days of good Queen Anne, are the priceless literary gems of another era; manuscripts that take on an added glory in the purest 18th century interior to be found in all Ireland. The oaken benches and stained reading desks; the wide‐planked flooring and arched ceiling; the carved and lettered gables, all topped by hand painted mitres—all these have been spared the hand of the restorer and modernizer. They stand as a challenge to time, and in a remarkable state of preservation.
While some libraries have done their best over the years to inform the public as to what they are doing and can do as regards helping readers, others seem to move along without making any special effort to publicise their facilities. In the old days modesty was a virtue, but now it is its own reward. Government departments, which used to shun the limelight, now employ public relations officers in large numbers, and professional bodies and big business houses constantly seek publicity. Times have changed, and the battle is to the strong; and it is unfortunately generally felt that the institution or service that does not speak for itself has little to speak about. It may frankly be said that if a service is in a position to enlarge its sphere of influence and esteem it should do so to the utmost of its endeavour. But it will be granted that if its publicity is not justified by performance, there will likely be an unhappy reaction.
Time was when we librarians were howling at “twopenny” libraries. Not having the enterprise to display what should be our better and more enduring books in street windows, to give our libraries the impact of a good bookshop, we grew pale before the garish shows of tuck publications in cheap‐jacks' twopenny corner booths. Our dumps then, the slur on librarianship, infuriated me. I protested. The shivering stopped. Soon we saw, we now see, these no‐longer twopenny booths as dingy shops hinting at furtive merchandise. We did not understand, we do not yet understand, that whoever grovels to the mob, will die by the mob; a fact librarians, as well as cheap‐jacks, should remember, for no library has ever won credit or got thanks for its tuck.