Public library services

Introduction

Local authorities run 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.

You need to join the library if you want to:

  • Borrow books or other items
  • Access online magazine and newspaper subscriptions, or
  • Take online courses

You no longer have to pay fines for late returns. All unpaid fines were also cancelled.

This page tells you about the services available at a library and how you can become a member.

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.

You can read about the terms and conditions of library membership.

Each library service issues its own library card. You can use any valid public library card to reserve and borrow items from a public library.

You get a pin with your membership card when you join the library. You need this number to use the computers and online services.

Library services

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

Lending services

Members can borrow books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, e-books and other materials. Libraries also have many books available in large-print format.

Most libraries have a junior section from babies to teenagers.

Internet services

You can use their computers 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.

Publications

You can look up reference books and other materials. Such as dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias, government publications, business information, yearbooks and atlases.

There are many journals and periodicals. These include 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

There are over 500 online courses in a variety of subjects to their members. You can access courses through the Universal Class online system.

You can access over 60 online language courses. Use the Mango Languages software, which is available on your libraries website.

Educational supports for schools and students

Services on offer for 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

You can get information about services provided by government departments. For example, you get information about social welfare.

You can access the national environmental information service (ENFO). You can use this service to find information on the main environmental topics in Ireland.

You can get information about the history of your county or locality. For example, county and parish histories, maps, photographs, drawings, old records, and newspapers.

You can get information about healthy and attend talks and presentations. This is part of the Healthy Ireland initiative.

Business and employment supports

The Work Matters service at the library can help you look for a job. It can also help you if you are thinking of starting your own business. You can access business publications and work-related e-learning courses. You have access to space for meetings, study and research.

Literacy support

The Right to Read programme encourages children to read. See how to encourage children to read. Some libraries also offer support to adults who want to improve their literacy.

Community groups

Public libraries often provide a space and support for groups. For example, book clubs, movie clubs and mother and toddler groups. Most libraries know about clubs and societies and events in their locality.

Photocopying and printing

Your local public library may provide photocopying and printing services.

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.

Most libraries have a mobile app. You can use this 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.

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.

Accessing library services

Depending on your age, you can access different collections and services. See the terms and conditions:

  • 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. Parent's are responsible for their child in the library. This includes 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 8am to 10pm 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.

National Library strategy

There is a library strategy, Our Public Libraries 2022. It 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 runs over 5 years from 2018.

Page edited: 9 November 2022