St. Patrick’s Day is one of the holidays Tempe does best. But there’s no reason to wait until March to celebrate Irish heritage or pretend to be Irish for a day. The McClelland Irish Library in downtown Phoenix opened last month and is a great place to revel in Irish pride and explore Irish genealogy.
In 2010, 34.7 million U.S. residents claimed Irish ancestry, a figure that is more than seven times the population of all of Ireland itself. The Irish Cultural Center has long been the go-to place in the Valley for Irish culture and classes, and the addition of the library adds a new way for Irish-Americans to connect with their ancestors.
Construction on the McClelland Irish Library, a partnership between the Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation and the City of Phoenix, began in February 2010 and was completed on Oct. 2 of this year. Its founder and namesake is Norman McClelland, the CEO of Shamrock Foods, whose parents were Irish immigrants.
The three-story building located at 1106 N. Central Ave., resembles a traditional 12th century Norman castle — the stone archway is made up of 22-tons of Irish limestone.
The building houses over 5,000 books from Irish authors and poets, as well as an ongoing exhibit of the “Book of Kells,” an illustrated manuscript containing the four gospels of the New Testament, which is housed at Trinity College in Dublin.
The building also contains reading rooms and a performance space. The library is an affiliate of the Phoenix Public Library, which means that all materials may be found using the Phoenix Public Library’s catalog, though the collection is not in circulation and can only be viewed during the library’s opening hours.
The second story is home to the Frances McClelland Genealogy Research Center. Those wanting to learn more about their Irish heritage are encouraged to visit the library and employ the staff’s help in researching family lineage. The library will host Irish and Scottish genealogy seminars on Nov. 17 and 18, in which participants will learn how to pinpoint the origin of their ancestors based on the results of a DNA test.
The library offers yearly student memberships for $30. Membership includes access to the Irish Cultural Center and invitations to its events and programs, subscriptions to electronic newsletters, use of library resources, access to genealogy services and discounted admission to designated activities.
More information can be found at AZirishlibrary.com.
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