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16th Nov 2023

Trinity invites public suggestions for new library name, after slave-owners name removed

Fiona Frawley

trinity college library renaming

Berkeley Library was so-called after philosopher George Berkeley, but was ‘denamed’ in April of this year because of the philosopher’s links to slavery.

Trinity College Dublin is inviting submissions from the public on future legacy issues to be considered by the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group.

The University is also seeking public submissions on a new name for its library, which was formerly named after Irish philosopher George Berkeley.

The decision to dename the library came following a review in 2023 triggered by a student petition, in response to Berkeley’s links with slavery.

Research by academics at Trinity uncovered documents indicating Berkeley bought and sold slaves on his Rhode Island estate. He also produced a pamphlet suggesting that enslaved people should be baptised, to encourage greater obedience to their owners.

The move was criticised at the time by some academics, who argued that the name was “of its time” and a tribute to Berkeley’s contribution to philosophical thought, as per the Irish Times.

Trinity is asking for the public’s help to rename its library.

Speaking about the search for a new name for the library, Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton said:

“We have an opportunity to show imagination in the renaming of this iconic library. We encourage suggestions not just confined to people’s names but all sorts of options, including places, dates, concepts, and more.”

On the subject of Trinity’s efforts to address legacy issues, Chair of the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group Eoin O’Sullivan said:

“Having reached decisions on two critical issues in the first year of our operation– the return of crania to Inishbofin and the library denaming – the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group is now moving on to consider further issues that our complex legacy may prompt. As before, our emphasis will be on evidence-led deliberations. Members of the public will be asked to include in their suggestions as much detail and evidence as possible about the issue and its connection with Trinity.”

Submissions on general legacy issues can be made here, while suggestions for a new name for the library can be made here.

Header image via Getty 


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