The Library was founded in 1931 when the Church of Ireland accepted from Miss Rosmund Stephen a gift of the Library of the Irish Guild of Witness which Miss Stephen had founded in Dublin in 1918 to promote the Irish dimension of the Church of Ireland. This collection of books on the bible and theology numbered some 5,000 titles in 1931 and to these Miss Stephen added books from her father, the judge, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, and her grandfather, Sir James Stephen, who had been professor of modern history in the University of Cambridge. The new Library was given rooms in the offices of the Representative Church Body in 52 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin where it was developed as a reference and lending library for the clergy and laity of the Church of Ireland.
In 1969 the Library was moved to the site of the Divinity Hostel (now the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) in Churchtown. There it has been developed to meet the particular needs of those in training for the ministry. However, it continues to serve as a reference and lending library for the Church of Ireland and today is the principal resource for those who require information about any aspect of the Church of Ireland.
In the late 1930s the Library became the focus for the work of the Ecclesiastical Records Committee of the General Synod which, among other tasks, provided a home for stray church records. This function was sporadic until the 1960s when amalgamations of parishes and dioceses led to a marked increase in archival activity. The Library’s archival role was formalised in 1981 with the appointment of an archivist and the provision of purpose built storage accommodation for church records. The Library is now the place of first resort for information on and access to Church of Ireland archives and manuscripts.
Miss Rosmund Emily Stephen