Word Screen Park
Kevin McMahon
An architecture collection for the School of Architecture, University of Limerick

In 2005 the University of Limerick—a 36-year-old, mid-sized institution with a technical emphasis—started an undergraduate architecture program: the first new architecture program in the Republic of Ireland in a century, and the first outside of Dublin. Merritt Bucholz, Chair of the new school, hired me the first year to help acquire an architecture collection for the university library.

For the next 12 months I surveyed the program to clarify their needs, and studied existing resources, while coordinating with the university library administration. The new program was ambitious: aspiring to be both international and Irish, to offer world-class design instruction, and to intervene constructively in contemporary Ireland.

The under-representation of architecture and the visual arts in Irish publishing, Irish book stores, and Irish libraries presented a challenge we were eager to address.  Even more of a challenge was finding quality resources on contemporary Irish architecture and visual art.

Our effort was valued outside the University: the first public announcement of the architecture collection prompted a gift of € 100,000 to support book purchases.

Between Spring and Summer 2006 I produced a 5000-title customized architecture, planning and visual arts bibliography and collection development plan to guide the first five years of acquisitions. That summer the university began implementing my plan, sending regular updates on their progress. The result was the most comprehensive and useful art and architecture resource in Western Ireland.