Public library services


Public libraries are open to everyone and most of their services are free. You can use some of the services in the library without becoming a member.

In most libraries, you can read books, consult reference material, use the internet and study areas, and print and photocopy documents without being a member. However, you will need to join the library if you want to borrow books or other items, access online magazine and newspaper subscriptions or take online courses.

The new library strategy Our Public Libraries 2022 aims to improve and develop national library services. The strategy has 3 programmes, reading and literacy, learning and information and community and culture. Its aims include:

  • Extending opening hours by using self-service options
  • Removing fines and lending charges
  • Providing up-to-date technology to support users’ digital needs

This strategic plan is to be implemented over 5 years from 2018.

Library services

The services libraries provide differ depending on their size, location and policies. Some of the services available include:

  • Lending services – library members can borrow books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, e-books and other materials. Libraries also have many books available in large-print format.
  • Children's lending service – most libraries have a junior section with books and other materials for children of all ages, from babies to teenagers.
  • Internet services – all public libraries have computers that you can use to access the internet. In some cases you may need to be a member of your library to use the internet and you may have to book a session in advance. Libraries may offer introductory sessions for new users.
  • Reference sections – public libraries have reference sections, with books and other materials which can be consulted in the library. These reference materials include dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias, government publications, business information, yearbooks and atlases. Some reference materials may be available on the internet.
  • Magazines and newspapers – public libraries carry a range of journals and periodicals including national and local newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics. You can also access digital magazines and newspapers online using your library barcode.
  • Online learning – public libraries offer over 500 online courses in a variety of subjects to their members. These courses can be accessed through the Universal Class online system.
  • Online language courses – you can access over 60 online language courses using the Mango Languages software, which is available on your libraries website.
  • Educational supports for schools and students – public libraries offer a range of services to primary and post-primary schools, for example, class visits to the library. A collection of teaching and learning resources for primary and secondary schools are also available in the Learning Zone section of
  • Information services – public libraries also provide information on the services provided by the local county council or corporation and by government departments, for example, social welfare information.
  • Environmental information – you can access the national environmental information service (ENFO) through the public library service. You can use this service to find information on the main environmental topics in Ireland.
  • Local studies – public libraries collect materials about the history of their county or locality, for example, county and parish histories, maps, photographs, drawings, old records, and newspapers.
  • Business and employment supports – the Work Matters programme provides supports for people looking for work and for people who want to set-up or grow a business. These supports include access to business publications, work-related e-learning courses and access to space for meetings, study and research.
  • Literacy support – some libraries have reading and literacy groups to help children and adults who have problems with literacy. There is also information on how to encourage children to read on
  • Community groups – public libraries often provide a space and support for a range of groups, for example, book clubs, movie clubs and mother and toddler groups. Most libraries also hold a lot of local information about clubs and societies and events in their locality.
  • Photocopying and printing – your local public library may provide photocopying and printing services.

You can contact your local library to see what services are available there.

Reserves, requests and renewals

If the book you want is already out on loan, you can reserve it in your local library. The library will notify you when the book is available. You can also reserve books online using the national library catalogue. You need your library card number and Personal Identification Number (PIN) to do this. If you don't know your PIN, contact your local library.

If the library does not have the book you want, you can request it online or at your local library. The library may purchase the book or look for a copy through the inter-library loan system. This system lets libraries in Ireland, the UK, and around the world, loan items to each other for their members.

You will receive a reminder 3 days before your item is due back at the library. If you would like to keep the item for longer than the length of your loan, you can renew it online, by telephone or in person at the library.


Anyone can use and join their public library.

You can access different library collections and services depending on your age and subject to terms and conditions, see details below:

  • Adult: access to all library collections, services and to the Internet.
  • Child under 12: access to the children’s library, to DVDs up to a PG rating, and to children’s Internet services.
  • Young adult 12-14: access to the children’s and young adult library, to DVDs up to a 12 rating, and to children’s Internet services.
  • Young adult 15-17: access to the adult library, to DVDs up to 15 rating, and to internet services.

Note: Internet services for children vary between libraries.

The number of items you can borrow at any one time and the length of time you can keep them varies. You should ask for details at your local library.

You are expected to be quiet in the library as other people may be using the facilities to study, work or read in peace.

Generally, you are not allowed eat or drink in libraries.


Most services in most public libraries are free.

However, if you are late returning a book, you will get a fine of €0.05 per day. If you lose or damage an item, you must pay to replace it. If you owe €20 or more in fines, you won’t be able to borrow from the library until you have paid the fine. Parents and guardians are responsible for any fines or charges incurred by their children. All public libraries charge for photocopying.

The new library strategy, ‘Our Public Libraries 2022’, aims to remove fines and lending charges for all library members and users.

How to apply

To become a library member you need to:

  • Fill out the application form online or at any branch.
  • Provide proof of your identity and of your address.
  • Get your parent or guardian’s permission to join the library if you are under 18.

For further information on joining the library, you can read the membership terms and conditions.

Each library service issues its own library card. Since the introduction of the Libraries Ireland initiative in 2017, any valid public library card can be used to reserve and borrow items from any public library.

A PIN is issued with your membership card when you join the library. You need this number to use the PCs and online services.

Further information

There is more information on public libraries on the Libraries Ireland website.

Page edited: 23 August 2018