This is the most beautiful library I've ever been in.
This is called the Long Room. It's two stories tall, and each alcove is lined with leather-bound books, and each has its own rolling ladder for reaching books on the upper shelves. The windows were open for light, protected with frosted film, and have folding shutters on either side so they can be closed off from the inside.
The end of each set of shelves holds the bust of notable people, such as Aristotle and John Milton and Isaac Newton. Many of the alcoves are hung with banners celebrating an author, or a genre such as Irish fairy tales.
I loved the spiral staircase.
I wanted to be in this room all by myself, to smell the leather and sit in the peace and quiet. Unfortunately, I shared the room with about a hundred people, so I couldn't take the pictures I really wanted to take. Like a view looking down from the balcony at each end (we weren't allowed upstairs).
I did meet Michael, a long-time docent at the library. He was chatting with my husband, and I walked up and told him I couldn't think of any better job than his: working in this amazing library.
You can see the library when you buy a ticket for the Book of Kells, but it was the library I especially wanted to see (I am an architect's daughter after all... and a life-long book junkie). Don't get me wrong, the Book of Kells is beautiful. They put two pages on display at a time, but the museum exhibit displays reproductions of many of the pages, along with the history of the book. No photos are allowed, so I can only point you to the exhibit website if you'd like to take a look, and learn more about both the book and the Old Library.