Dah Duit (Hi) and welcome

McClelland Irish Library opens, will serve as community center

Modeled after a castle, the McClelland Irish Library will house 5,000 books, Irish movies, music, photographs, an archive, a rare book room full of ancient literature and a genealogy research center. (W. Scot Grey/DD)

In downtown Phoenix, another library opens its doors. However, this library is unlike any the city has housed before. The McClelland Irish Library, which opens to the public Tuesday, is for one, modeled after a castle.

The library, which its website describes as a “three-story building [resembling] a traditional 12th-century Norman castle from the Emerald Isle” is located at 1106 N. Central Ave., adjacent to the Irish Cultural Center near Roosevelt Row.

“There are only two libraries like this in the country,” Paula West, executive director of Phoenix Sister Cities, said Saturday night at the library’s dedication ceremony.

The ceremony included a live auction, bagpipe players, an Irish Tenor and a traditional guitarist. Among the guests was Norman McClelland, CEO of Shamrock Foods and the library’s namesake.

McClelland grew up the son of Irish immigrants, working on his father’s dairy farm in Arizona.

“Ireland has a long and rich history of culture, defeats and victories,” he said. “This library will help preserve that history.”

The library will house approximately 5,000 books, but contains much more than classic Irish literature. The library also has Irish movies, music, photographs, an archive and a rare book room full of ancient literature.

“It’s more than just a library. It’s a community center,” said Head Librarian Chas Moore, mentioning that the library will also have a classroom and a practice room for the Academy of Irish Dance.

Moore, who grew up in an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago, was excited to discuss the impact of the library on Phoenix’s Irish community, pointing out that said community is bigger than most people would think.

“500,000 Arizonans claim Irish ancestry, making it the second-biggest ethnic group in the state,” he said. “I find that amazing.”

Also, within the walls of the library, a genealogy research center is run by a certified genealogist. The genealogy center exists to help library members trace their roots back as far as possible to discover their family legacy and culture.

Lisa and Frank Feeney, who are both of Irish heritage, are two Phoenix residents looking forward to using the research center.

“I’m really excited to have access to the Irish genealogy (center),” Lisa said. “Before, I was able to do the research through the Mormon Church, but it will be nice to have our own.”

“Plus it’s the nicest-looking building downtown,” her husband added.