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Friday 29 August 2014

Novel idea to create a truly public library

Brian Hutton

Published 13/01/2014 | 02:30

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Frank Kennan and his wife Rosemary at their home in Roundwood House, Mountrath, Co Laois. Picture: NIALL CARSON
Frank Kennan and his wife Rosemary at their home in Roundwood House, Mountrath, Co Laois. Picture: NIALL CARSON

An unusual library is set to open this week -- with the public being asked to decide what should be in its collection.

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The Library of the History of Civilisation is the brainchild of Frank Kennan, who lives in Roundwood House, a remarkable Palladian villa nestled in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom mountains in Co Laois.

After a year-long odyssey trying to step outside the maelstrom of everyday news to discover where the human race was headed, he has come up with around 700 books he believes sums up our journey so far.

The collection was helped by a "shocking number of opinions" from guests who come to stay at the house -- saved from ruin by the Irish Georgian Society and taken over by Mr Kennan and his wife Rosemary in the 1980s.

But now he wants to take it beyond the drawing room, and is asking the wider world to help determine the collection. Finishing touches are being put on a purpose-built library in one of the old grain stores.

The library attempts to map out what French philosopher Voltaire described as the steps by which men passed from barbarism to civilisation, according to Mr Kennan. He said there would be little serious argument about the first 300 or 400 books, but the remainder will constantly change as civilisation itself changes.

The library is to open this week, and the public is being invited to visit or get in touch to offer their opinion on what should be in -- and out -- of the collection.

They should expect to be challenged.

Irish Independent

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