Yesterday at Áras an Uachtaráin the President of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI), Cathal McCauley, presented President of Ireland Michael D Higgins with the inaugural LAI President’s medal. The LAI launched the President’s medal in December 2021 to celebrate an individual who, while not directly working in libraries, has an exceptional track record of promoting libraries and/or issues of interest or concern to libraries. Following consideration of the nominations the LAI Council agreed that the inaugural recipient is President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.
A published author and renowned academic in his own right throughout his tenure, President Higgins has been a tireless supporter of, and advocate for, libraries. He has visited or opened school libraries, public libraries, academic libraries and more. Library colleagues who have had the pleasure of meeting him on such occasions have always noted that his interest and passion for libraries is striking. President Higgins is a strong and vocal advocate for both libraries and librarianship.
In addition to his many helpful and encouraging statements, President Higgins has also given libraries very tangible support over the years. Two recent examples are that he has donated more than 700 books from his own personal collection to Dublin Public Libraries. At that time the Office of the President commented “The President chose to make this donation to Irish libraries because he views libraries as places that help people to nurture their inquisitive natures, and books as windows onto a wide variety of worlds, both real and imagined.” The President leant his support to Irish public libraries by launching the Ireland Reads Campaign on 25th February 2021, which celebrated Ireland’s first national reading day (part of the Government Wellness initiative); very eloquently declaring, “libraries are the oxygen of public life, and most important are the library staff who have, over the years, created an atmosphere for generations of Irish children, women and men.”
Presenting the medal, President of the LAI Cathal McCauley said: “In view of his support for libraries, scholarship, literacy, inclusion and many other relevant issues President Higgins is a more than worthy inaugural recipient of our President’s medal. I congratulate President Higgins and thank him for his wonderful and welcome work on these important issues which mean so much to the library community and society as a whole.”