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The library that locked its readers in cages



National Library Week is a great time to remind people that visiting a library can be a fascinating experience. For people traveling in Ireland's Marsh Library, this feeling may have been a bit more intense. During the 18th century, the readers were locked up in cages.

Marsh's Dublin-based library was founded in 1707 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and housed several titles. Some of them were rare and the library had problems with theft early on. In the first decade, more than 1000 books were stolen. To protect their existence, librarians created three small niches with locking wire doors. If a reader wanted to read a particularly valuable volume, he would have to agree to be in the niche so as not to run away with the book.

Marshs was the first public library in Ireland and the concept of a place where people could go, borrow a book and then return, it was still a leap of faith.

The library is still open today, keeping cages intact, though no one expects visitors to go to cell cells to read.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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