Public library services
Local authorities operate a network of public libraries in Ireland. Public libraries are open to everyone and most of their services are free.
You can use some library services 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.
National library strategy
The 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. It aims to:
- Extend opening hours by using self-service options
- Remove fines and lending charges
- Provide up-to-date technology to support users’ digital needs
This strategic plan is to be implemented over 5 years from 2018.
Fines for late returns
Fines for late returns were removed by all public libraries in Ireland on 1 January 2019. All unpaid fines were also cancelled.
Becoming a member
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. 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 computers and online 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 askaboutIreland.ie.
- 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.
- Healthy eating: You can access information on how to eat well, and attend talks and presentations on healthy eating for you and your family at your local library as part of the Healthy Ireland at Your Library initiative.
- Literacy support: The Right to Read programme encourages children to read and operates through the library network. There is also information on how to encourage children to read on librariesireland.ie. Some libraries also offer support to adults who want to improve their literacy.
- 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.
A number of libraries now operate a mobile app that you can use to borrow ebooks, access the library catalogue, reserve and renew books and manage your library account. You can check with your local library if this service is available in your area.
Accessing library services
- Adults - 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. You are responsible for your child in the library, your child’s selection and use of library materials and services, including any access to the internet.
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.
My Open Libraries
Some libraries have extended their opening hours through the My Open Librares programme. These libraries are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the year. This extended service is only available to members, and children (under 16) must be accompanied by an adult.
During unstaffed hours, an automated service is available, which can be accessed by using your library card and pin.
There is more information on public libraries on the Libraries Ireland website.