Patrick J. Dowling Library
The Library Collection:
The library, located on the ground floor of the UICC, contains more than 3,000 titles on a number of subjects regarding Ireland and Irish America:
Archaelogy, Architecture, Art, Biography, Cooking, Crafts, Genealogy, History(Ancient and Modern), Immigration, Literature (novels, poetry, plays and short stories), Music (including music scores), Mythology and Folklore, Religion, Sports, and Travel.
The library also has books written in the Irish language.
The Patrick J. Dowling library works with the History-Heritage Committee:
The History-Heritage committee at the UICC is closely allied to the mission of the library to promote Irish history and cultural. The committee envisions the library as the core of a future Heritage Center at the UICC. Currently the committee is fulfilling its mission by sponsoring historical and cultural events and exhibits at the UICC.
Our current exhibit is A PLACE FOR ALL THINGS IRISH, a series of posters which tells the story of the Irish Societies at the turn of the 20th Century and their dream of building an Irish hall.
Check out highlights of the program for the Irish Fair of 1898 which inspired the exhibit…
WHERE YOU RELATIVES IN SAN FRANCISCO AT THE IRISH FAIR IN 1898 OR ADVERTISING IN THE FAIR PROGRAM?
Check out our database which lists the volunteers and advertisers at the Fair.
The Dowling Library Asks
From the corner of 2700 – 45th Avenue
Glows Bay-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The golden-bridged harbor that our City frames.
“Recall children of Eire, your toil and joys in the City by the Bay!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your stories, your scrapbooks,
Your letters and souvenirs, longing to be shared,
The ephemera of your days gone by.
Send these, that we might celebrate our shared journey, to me
I lift my lamp in welcome at the Dowling Library’s green door!”
— inspired by “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, 1883
The Patrick J. Dowling Library of the United Irish Cultural Center is actively seeking ephemera, memorabilia, and souvenirs which document the activities, accomplishments and history of the Irish and Irish-American community in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area to add to display and preserve in the library’s archive.
The library is also reviving the Center’s oral history project and is seeking to interview those men and women who were actively involved in the planning and building of the library. Appointments for interviews at the center may be made Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm and some Saturdays.
The exhibit of these items and stories will be a part of a curated exhibit as a part of the 45 years on 45th Avenue celebration.
Please email Jennifer Drennan, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your interest and to arrange donation drop-offs and interviews. Thank you!
Come in and browse through our collection of books, journals, memorabilia and multimedia. First all Irish library in the United States, our collection is entirely devoted to Irish history and cultural with a focus on the Irish in San Francisco.
For your convenience, HERE is link to our online system. Still under construction, it contains a partial list of our collection.
Check out our collection of early San Francisco newspapers which are digitized versions of the microfilm records generously donated by Thomas and Regina Wrin. Patrons can research their Irish American ancestors that settled in the city as well as over 2,300 early Irish societies that existed here 1849-1927. The newspapers include copies of the WASP and the Leader newspaper.
BMI’s digital reel
User Name: email@example.com
Notice: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The user of materials on this website is responsible for any infringement.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 1:30 to 4:30 pm.*
2700 45th Avenue San Francisco 94116 (Library entrance near Wawona St.)
*It is advised to call or email the library before coming to confirm hours.
Phone: 415-661-2700. Use contact form below.
Reading Material Donations:
Interested in donating reading materials to the library? Please review the Library’s Donation Guidelines and Procedure and consult with the librarian before dropping off any materials.
One of the library’s goals is to add more books to the new Children’s Section. In particular, the library would like an Irish language dictionary for children, as well as books on Irish and Irish American history, culture and sports written for this age group.
The Friends of the Patrick J. Dowling library:
The Friends of the Patrick J. Dowling library was set up to support the goals and mission of the library by sponsoring fund raisers, cultural & literary events, & classes, and by coordinating publicity. SUPPORT THIS WONDERFUL LIBRARY BY JOINING THE FRIENDS OF THE PATRICK J. DOWLING LIBRARY TODAY As a member, you will receive: special invitations to events and classes, no cost or reduced cost of admission to some events, and 5% reduction in price at book sales.
Please consider making a contribution to the Patrick J. Dowling Library.
Your contribution to United Irish Cultural Center of California, Inc., a public not-for-profit 501(c)3, is fully tax deductible. 100% of your contribution will go directly to the upkeep of the Patrick J. Dowling Library.
Contributions (cash or check) can be accepted during library hours (Thursday, Friday, Saturday 1:30 – 4:30pm). Contributions can also be made on our Donation Page
For more information, please contact Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-661-2700.
LIBRARY FUN FACTS
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE PATRICK J. DOWLING LIBRARY
- The Patrick J. Dowling Library, which opened April 5, 1975, is the first all-Irish library in the United States
- The library has inspired other Irish cultural centers in the U.S. to create their own all-Irish library
- Most of the collection has been donated
- The oldest book in the library is Fingal, An Ancient Epic Poem by James MacPherson, published in 1763
- Nearly 1,000 people visited the library in 2009
- There are approximately 5,000 books in the library
- 885 new books were added to the library shelves in 2009
- 758 books were donated to the library in 2009
- The library also has newspapers, journals, magazines, books in the Irish language, books for children (in Irish and English), genealogy resources, sheet music, comedy and music cassettes, videos, and records
- The library archives the history of the United Irish Cultural Center as well as the library
- Distinguished visitors include Gerry Adams, Member of Parliament and President of Sinn Fein; the late Senator Edward Kennedy; the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill; Albert Reynolds, Prime Minister of Ireland; Mary Robinson, President of Ireland; and filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick, scriptwriter and co-producer of the documentary Boys of St. Columb’s
AUTHORS AND SCHOLARS WHO USED THE LIBRARY
- Daniel Cassidy, author of How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads
- Professor John Walsh, Irish Language Lecturer at the University of Galway , gathered information on the Irish language spoken and taught in San Francisco from the library’s microfilm of the Monitor and Leader newspapers.
- John Borgonovo, editor of Florence and Josephine O’Donoghue’s War of Independence.
- Gerry Mullins, who wrote the text to Dorothea Lange’s Ireland, the Oakland Museum ‘s exhibition catalog
- Rose Murphy, author of Ella Young, Irish Mystic and Rebel: From Literary Dublin to the American West
RARE AND SIGNED BOOKS
- Borstal Boy, signed by author Brendan Behan
- Collected Poems of Padraic Colum, signed by the author
- The Aran Islands by J.M. Synge, drawings by Jack Yeats
- Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland edited and translated by John O’Donovan, published 1848-1851
- Eamon de Valera, by the Earl of Longford and Thomas P. O’Neil. Signed by de Valera.
- Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker
- Days of Fear by Frank Gallagher. First edition signed by author
- Deirdre signed by author James Stephens
- Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook Easter, 1916
MORE RARE AND SIGNED BOOKS
- Servant of the Queen: Reminiscences by Maud Gonne McBride, signed by author
- My Kilkenny I.RA .Days 1916-1922 by James J. Comerford. Only three other U.S. libraries have this book.
- Eamon de Valera’s 1920 speech to the U.S. government requesting recognition of Ireland as an independent state
- Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story from 1916 to the Truce with Britain
- Kiskeam Versus the Empire by J.J. O Riordain. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is the closest library that has this book.
- Bound copies of the Nation newspaper, published in New York , 1848-1849 and the Irish Miscellany newspaper, published in Boston , 1858
- Irish Folk Music, compiled by Captain Francis O’Neill. First edition and signed by O’Neill.
- Big Tree of Bunlahy: Stories of My Countryside by Padraic Colum and illustrated by Jack Yeats
- The Year of the Irish Hunger Strike, published by the Irish Northern Aid Committee
- Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, signed by author George Creel
VISITOR PROFILES THIS PAST YEAR
- Patrons seeking information about President Obama’s Irish roots
- UC Berkeley Haas fellow researching Irish prisoners in English jails 1916-1946 was elated finding a document relating to this subject, the very same document not available to him during his summer visit to an Irish library. According to him, the Dowling library has more books on Ireland than the entire UC library system.
- Patron researching Irish myth and folklore for Ulster Cycle Conference presentation held in Coleraine in Summer 2009 said the library’s resources were “invaluable”.
- City College student researching the women’s suffrage movement in Ireland
- City College student researching Father Peter Yorke and the labor movement in San Francisco
- St. Ignatius student researching the pros and cons of Eamon de Valera
- Walsh scholarship applicants gathering information for their essays submissions. They won.
- Middle school student needing photos/illustrations of coffin ships for Irish immigration project
- Patron photocopied map of his family’s ancestral town for his second grader grandson’s school project
- Patrons interested in information on the origin of their family surnames and their Irish roots in San Francisco
- Fiddler listening to cassette of Irish fiddle master Michael Coleman
- Parents reading Irish fairy tales with their children
- Caterer looking for information on the history of Irish cooking
- Patrons interested in these subjects: knitting, military history, Scots Irish immigration, literature, music, travel, language, pirate queen Grace O’Malley, the Celts, Brian Boru, the KRB, Ireland during World War II, the Kennedy family, recipes and how the harp became the national symbol of Ireland
- Emails from other states and abroad from people seeking genealogy assistance
History of the Patrick J. Dowling Library
Named after its first library director, Patrick J. Dowling (1904-1998), the library opened on April 5, 1975, a month after the United Irish Cultural Center opened.
Dowling immigrated from Camross, County Laois, arriving in San Francisco in 1926. When plans were made to build the United Irish Cultural Center, it was Dowling’s idea to create an all-Irish library and archives. To accomplish this, he set aside his real estate business to travel in the U.S. and Ireland, soliciting book and journal donations. Homes and businesses served as donation centers. Initially he brought the books back with him or paid for their shipment to San Francisco. Later, an acquaintance in the shipping business took over the job of transporting donated materials without charge.
Until the construction of the center was completed, Dowling and Dan and Margaret Keohane stored the library materials in their homes. Mary Green, a librarian originally from Dublin, cataloged these first donations. The Patrick J. Dowling Library inspired other Irish communities in the U.S. and abroad to create an all-Irish library.
Consul General of Ireland, Brendan Moran, and City Librarian, Kevin Starr, were some of the many notable attendees at the library’s dedication. Following the ceremony, a luncheon for approximately 150 was held at the center.
Mr. Dowling authored “California, the Irish Dream (1988) and “Irish Californians (1998), which are part of the library’s many resources on Irish America.
The library’s guestbooks chronicle visits by people from all around the world, including several distinguished people such as Tip O’Neill (pictured above), former speaker of the United States House of Representatives; Albert Reynolds, Prime Minister of Ireland; and Mary Robinson, President of Ireland. Over the years, dedicated volunteers — professional library workers, bibliophiles, and supporters of Irish and Irish-American culture — have generously given their time to keep the library going. And thanks to bighearted donors, the library’s collection continues to grow, connecting patrons to all things Irish and Irish American.
Library Directors: Patrick J. Dowling, 1975-1993; Thomas J. Carey, 1993-July 1999; Kevin J. Mullen, August 1999-2004; Joan Riordan Manini, 2004-January 2008; Wendy H. King, March 2008 – December 2010 ; Valerie T. McGrew July 2011 – August 2019 ; Jennifer L. Drennan September 2019 – present.