Much of what we know today about the culture and heritage of the Irish in Prince Edward Island we owe to the Benevolent Irish Society.
Perhaps the single greatest contribution to that body of knowledge was the establishment of a circulating library that is open to the general public.
Established over the past two years, the library enables people to access approximately 1700 volumes of fiction and non-fiction books, in addition to hundreds of non-circulating magazines, periodicals, and academic journals. This collection is especially strong in the area of history, focusing on subjects related to Ireland, the Irish diaspora, and the Irish on Prince Edward Island.
The biography section is impressive, with printed material documenting the lives of a number of historical Irish figures as well as more contemporary figures, many of them residents of PEI.
The library was a dream of the late George O’Connor, a longtime BIS President. He set aside a room in the BIS and furnished it with bookshelves and suitable furniture. A few hundred books and periodicals were donated and put into storage under the guidance of a library committee.
The project took flight when Mary Ellen Callaghan became president and set the goal of fulfilling Mr. O’Connor’s dream. Under her guidance, the volunteer library committee was re-invigorated, book donations were pursued, and a computer was acquired. This enabled the BIS library to begin cataloguing materials and open this important heritage resource.