19th century: A National Library for Ireland

The Dublin Society moved its headquarters to Leinster House in 1815 and continued to expand its Library collections. The title of Royal Dublin Society was adopted in 1820 in recognition of George IV's visit to Leinster House.

In 1836 a Parliamentary Select Committee was held to investigate the role the RDS played in Ireland and the use the Society made of the parliamentary grant it received. Of particular interest to the Select Committee was the Society's Library.

The conclusion of the Select Committee was that “…the Library of the Dublin Society ought to be considered as intended, not solely for the advantage of comparatively few individuals who belong to the Society, but as a National Library, accessible under proper regulations to respectable people of all classes who may be desirous to avail themselves of it for the purpose of literary research.”

The RDS implemented many of the recommendations of the Select Committee, increasing public access to its Library, cataloguing its collections and developing them to include subjects that reflected a wider national interest.

The passing of the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act of 1877 saw the transfer of the RDS Library collections into the hands of the state and the birth of the National Library of Ireland.

In 1890 the NLI moved out of Leinster House and into its new building on Kildare Street, designed by the architect Thomas Newenham Deane.