Dineen Grow, Head of Access Services, is our staff spotlight this month!  We chose Dineen not only because of her excellent service in the libraries, but also because of her love of the Irish language.  Read on to learn more about her classes in Irish language and culture and how you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.

What’s the best thing about working at Memorial Library?

There are so many!  The staff, definitely.  Working in Access Services is exciting, too– coming up with new and creative ways to help people and working with the public.  It’s challenging, but also a lot of fun.

How did your interest in the Irish language start?  I’m assuming you didn’t grow up speaking it!

No, no.  In the 80s, I started listening to Irish traditional music, and many of the songs were so beautiful, I wanted to learn what they were saying.  At the time, I was working with a co-worker who was a native speaker from Galway named Josephine, and she helped me learn the language.

Eventually, I had enough Gaelic to help graduate students with translation projects, and the word spread. Soon, I had a tiny cottage industry going: kitchen sessions and one-on-one tutoring.  It got to be kind of a burden in terms of time, so we formalized it through Continuing Education.  Now, folks can sign up for a legitimate class with me!

Learning the Irish language…not an easy task!

You also teach regionally, correct?

I do.  I’m planning to teach an immersion weekend at The University of Indiana, Bloomington, and I teach a lot in Milwaukee and in Minnesota and Ohio as well.  There’s a large Midwest community, and it’s fun to meet up with friends at these language programs.

Irish is a hard language to learn, but part of the fun is cracking the code.  The language itself is also incredibly poetic– when they say ‘I’m falling asleep’ in Irish, they do it with an image; they say, “My eyelids are falling together.”  There are so many examples like that, in even the simplest everyday language.


Learning a new language always means learning the culture, too;  tell us a little but about how you’re involved with Celtic culture.

Students at a CCC Weekend, learning an Irish dance.

It is.  Since I started learning the Irish language, I’ve become very involved in the community.  I founded the Celtic Cultural Center of Madison, which coordinates all sorts of events in the Midwest, from language immersion weekends and Celtic holiday celebrations, to music and dance performances (we share out website with the Celtic Music Association, and our St. Pat’s Eve celebration used to be their gig).

I’m on the board of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade group, and we have a good relationship with the Shamrock Club (who organize the Shamrock Shuffle).  We try to reach out to other Celtic groups in the area to create community.  It isn’t a big community, but it certainly is enthusiastic!

We also regularly sponsor visiting lectures through departments on Campus, especially Folklore and Ethnic Studies.

So, what have you got planned for St. Patrick’s Day?

For years we’ve done the St. Pat’s Eve Festival in Madison, since the CMA turned it over to us.  It used to legitimately be on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, but now it’s on the day itself.  Madison’s St’ Patrick’s Day Parade is from 1:30-3:00 around the Square, and then we’re heading to the Brink Lounge to “continue the party”

So, classic librarian question:  What books, music, etc. would you want to see on every library’s shelves?

Well, the trouble with many of my favorites is that they’re in modern Irish!  They’re a bit hard to come by; academic libraries mostly keep grammars and texts in Old Irish.  But I can share some of my favorite media– The Bothy Band was the band that sparked my original interest in the language years ago.  I also loved Moving Hearts back then, and I listen to RnaG Radio, which has NPR-like interviews conducted in the Irish language.

Ireland has such a rich literary tradition, too.  Any favorite poems?

Yeats is my all-time favorite.  I also love John Millington Synge’s plays.  It’s incredible to think of how small Ireland is, and how few people, and how huge the impact it has had on western culture and literature.  Almost everyone knows who James Joyce is.  Everyone can recognize Celtic symbols and say “those are Irish.”  I love being a part of that.


Want More?

Join the fun this weekend for the St. Pat’s Eve Festival, featuring West Wind, The Currach, Navan, Cashel Dennehy and Trinity Dancers!

  • What: Celtic Cultural Center of Madison’s St. Pat’s Eve Festival
  • Where: Brink Lounge, 701 E. Washington Ave.
  • When: Sunday, March 17, 3:00pm-7:00pm
  • Cover: $5:00 for attendees 12 and up.  This is a fundraiser for the CCC.

Know a librarian or library staff member with a cool skill or interest? They belong in the spotlight! Submit your suggestions to  We’d love to learn more about you!