Patrick J. Dowling Library
The Library is the Place for All Things Irish!
The Library tells the story of the San Francisco Irish Societies at the turn of the 20th Century and their dream of building an Irish Hall. Memorabilia from the Irish societies of that era are on display in the library.
The library promotes Irish/Irish American literature, history and culture by preserving and modernizing the collection of books, periodicals, and multimedia by providing public access to these collections.
Thursdays and Fridays : 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Updates Special Hours
During open hours if the door is closed please, text 1-415-661-2702 to confirm someone’s here.
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.
Mr. Dowling authored “California, the Irish Dream (1988) and “Irish Californians (1998), which are part of the library’s many resources on Irish America.
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.
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.
We Work 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.
Origin of Library name
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.
Until the construction of the center was completed, Dowling and Dan and Margaret Keohane stored the library materials in their homes.
The library’s guestbooks chronicle visits by people from all around the world, including several distinguished people such as Tip O’Neill, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives; Albert Reynolds, Prime Minister of Ireland; and Mary Robinson, President of Ireland. Gerry Adams, Member of Parliament and President of Sinn Fein; the late Senator Edward Kennedy; and filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick, scriptwriter and co-producer of the documentary Boys of St. Columb’s.
The walls of the library are lined with wonderful pictures and maps. The collection contains more than 5,000 titles on a number of subjects regarding Ireland and Irish America as well as 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.
Eamon De Valera
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 oldest book in the library is Fingal, An Ancient Epic Poem by James MacPherson, published in 1763.
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.
Interested in donating reading materials to the library? CLICK HERE
We are 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.
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.
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“You never know what you are going to find when you go through the collection.”
In the library there are several booklets which relate stories from the parishes of Ireland. One day, long time volunteer, Pat D’Arcy, came upon one from Bantry which actually contained stories about her mother’s family during the uprising. She shared the stories with her family in Bantry on Facebook.
Imagine the stories came from Bantry via the book and then back to Bantry via Facebook almost 100 years after the events occurred!