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Policy Information

Public Libraries

Published: 29 November 2018
From: Department of Rural and Community Development and Local Government Management Agency (LGMA)


With over 17 million visits annually, libraries play an important community role as centres of knowledge, information and culture.

The public library:

  • is a local service with a nationwide reach – members can use all library services, including borrowing and returning items, at any library in the country
  • delivers a national literacy and reading programme Right to Read through a core set of services and resources
  • delivers a national Work Matters programme of services for business and employment supports for locally based entrepreneurs, start-ups and job seekers
  • delivers the Healthy Ireland at your library initiative – developing health information in public libraries, providing books, e-books, audiobooks and e-magazines on health and wellbeing, as well as talks, discussions and workshops with a focus on physical health, mental health and health literacy
  • offers a national public library catalogue supported by a nationwide delivery service – items can be ordered online or in person and delivered quickly to the local library – the first such national service anywhere in the world

The public library provides access to a large collection of free online resources, with more than:

  • Over 500 e-learning courses and 70 online language courses
  • 25,000 e-books and 16,000 e-audiobooks
  • 352 international e-magazine titles and 1,412 online newspapers”

Find further information at Resources and Services Available at Your Local Library

Current profile of the public library service

Some facts and figures include:

  • 330 library branches across 31 local authorities
  • 30.5 mobile libraries in Ireland, including a shared cross-border service
  • 45 new or extended library branches between 2012 and 2017
  • 1,195,909 valid members in 2018
  • 17,067,255 visits to libraries in 2018
  • 17,879,890 items issued in 2018

You can access information on your local library information on your city or county council website.

You can also find up-to-date contact details for your local library on the library website . It publishes news and information about libraries in Ireland - including the Public Library Strategy 2018-2022.

In 2018, library members had access to 12 million books across the country as part of the national catalogue and distribution system.

See resources and services available at your local Library for more information on what you can do and find at your library.

My Open Library

My Open Library is an innovative technology and customer service focused initiative which was introduced on a pilot basis in three libraries in 2016 and is currently being rolled out to a further 23 libraries, with ten new libraries operating the service in recent months.

The focus of the service is to extend the availability of library services to customers at times that suit them best, providing greater flexibility and convenience through increased opening hours outside of normal staffed times. My Open Library is available on a self-service basis from 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year. The service complements regular staffed hours and ensures optimum delivery of service and support for customers, community engagement and development of programming activities

The innovative use of advanced-access technology has facilitated access for –

- students to study from early in the morning to late at night,

- families with working parents,

- commuters,

- people up-skilling, and

- community groups to use the meeting room facilities.

My Open Library has strengthened the prominence of the library in local communities by providing a non-commercial, indoor meeting place that is open and welcoming to all.

Most Borrowed Books and Authors

Details of the books and authors borrowed most often from Irish public libraries in 2018 have been published by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), which compiles the information as part of the Public Lending Remuneration (PLR) Scheme. Of the 20 most borrowed authors in 2018 19 were children’s authors, with only James Patterson managing to buck the trend. The five most popular authors were:

    Rank Author
    1 Roderick Hunt
    2 Roger Hargreaves
    3 Daisy Meadows
    4 Francesca Simon
    5 Julia Donaldson

The most popular authors of Adult Books were:

    Rank Author
    1 James Patterson
    2 Nora Roberts
    3 Danielle Steel
    4 Lee Child
    5 Anthony Horowitz

All 20 of the most borrowed titles were children’s books, with the Top Five being:

    Rank Title Author
    1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J.K. Rowling
    2 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School Jeff Kinney
    3 The BFG Roald Dahl
    4 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets J.K. Rowling
    5 Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban J.K. Rowling

The Top Five Adult Books borrowed were:

    Rank Title Author/Contributor
    1 Solar Bones Mike McCormack
    2 Holding Graham Norton
    3 Lying in Wait Liz Nugent
    4 Guinness World Records 2018 Guinness World Records 2018
    5 The Break Marian Keyes

For a full listing of all of the results and more information please click here.

Right to Read Programme

The Right to Read Programme is a national programme aimed at improving reading ability across Ireland. It is in line with and complements existing literacy programmes.

The programme has a set of guidelines, rolled out in 2017, that are available to assist each local authority, as well as having a Right to Read co-ordinator in place in each area.

Local Literacy Action Plans are being developed for each local authority area to support children, parents and adults with low levels of literacy to improve their reading ability. Public libraries will take a leading role for local government in delivering the Right to Read programme.

They will bring together the knowledge and experience of skilled staff in local authority services and agencies. Local implementation will be led by the City or County librarian supported by a Right to Read Network.

Since 2016, the nationally agreed collection of services that public libraries provide to schools is in place. The library service will deliver this collection with the support of the Right to Read Network and the Department of Education and Skills, with a particular focus on making the schools aware of the service.

Healthy Ireland at Your Library

The Healthy Ireland at Your Library programme aims to make libraries the 'go to' place for health information in communities. This free service will help to better inform the public about health and wellbeing.

The book collection and online resources will include stock focused on the priority areas of:

  • obesity
  • tobacco use
  • healthy eating
  • sexual health

Libraries Development

Libraries Development is the national adviser and development agency for public libraries in Ireland. It was established in 2012 within the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and continues the functions of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna, The Library Council. They advise the department and the library authorities on public library development and on library co-operation.

Public Library Standards and Benchmarking

The Public Library Standards and Benchmarks document provides a roadmap for the development and delivery of the library service in line with local and national government policy and with library service best practice nationally and internationally.

The aim of the document is to provide well-located, well-planned, effective public libraries with civic spaces, open and welcoming to all. It also aims to improve the physical community environment, promoting urban regeneration and sustainable communities.

Local studies

All public libraries collect materials about the history of their county or locality. There is a huge range of material available including:

  • county and parish histories
  • maps
  • photographs
  • drawings
  • old records and newspapers

Developed by An Chomhairle Leabharlanna and funded by The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD), the Ask About Ireland Website is a substantial online resource. It can be used as:

  • a local history resource
  • a portal to public library websites and local studies contacts
  • a source of local content supporting the schools’ curricula
  • a gateway to nationally significant historical datasets


It is a statutory responsibility for local authority to provide the proper management, custody, care and conservation of local records and local archives. The Department of Rural and Community Development assists local authorities to hire a qualified archivist and to rent accommodation for the purpose of processing archives.

The department also financed and co-ordinated a survey of local authority records and archives which was published in the report of the Report of the Steering Group on Local Authority Records and Archives. The report also outlines a strategy for developing local archives services. Most local authorities have already established, or are developing, local archive services.