'The Dublin Society for improving husbandry, manufactures and other useful arts and sciences' was founded in 1731. A royal charter was granted in 1749. The Society’s concern was the improvement of the country in matters such as agriculture, manufactures and art. The Government acknowledged the Society's usefulness by an annual grant. In 1836 a Select Committee of the House of Lords was appointed, 'to inquire into the administration of the Royal Dublin Society, with a view to the wider extension of the advantage of the annual parliamentary grant to that institution, without reference to the distinctions of party or religion'. The Select Committee, under the chairmanship of William Smith O'Brien, prepared a Report on the Society, which recommended that ‘the Library of the Dublin Society ought to be considered as intended, not solely for the advantage of a comparatively few individuals who belong to the Society, but as a National Library…'
"Entrance to Dublin Society House Sept 20 1818", James H Brocas (2032 TX 21).
The Library had previously been available to the public in a very limited manner, and from 1836 onwards, it became more accessible, largely due to the efforts of the Society's Library Committee to provide increased accommodation and longer opening hours. The Library stock in 1836 was largely scientific and technical, but over the following decades, the acquisitions policy became more general, and an emphasis was placed on acquiring material of Irish interest. (For example, in 1840 an important collection of pamphlets dealing with seventeenth century Ireland was purchased from the London bookseller Thomas Thorpe.)
In 1863, the Library received a valuable donation of books, prints, music, manuscripts and other material from Jaspar Robert Joly. This added significantly to the Irish holdings of the Society. The collection was given to the Society on condition that ‘if at any time hereafter a public library should be established in the city of Dublin under the authority of Parliament ...analogous to the library of the British Museum in London’, the Joly Library would be transferred to it.