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. In some cases the main local history collection will be in the county library. Technology is also being used to improve these services, making it easier for users to locate interesting information from local and national collections.
Developed by An Chomhairle Leabharlanna and funded by this Department, the askaboutireland website (link is external)is a substantial online local history resource, a portal to public library websites and local studies contacts, a source of local content supporting the schools’curricula and a gateway to nationally significant historical datasets. For example, a selection of historic titles of national and local interest have been digitised to create a Digital Book Collection with over 300 titles including the Royal Dublin Society Statistical Surveys and illustrated books such as the Hibernian Atlas compiled in 1776.
Section 80 of the Local Government Act, 2001 provides that it is a function of a local authority to make arrangements for the proper management, custody, care and conservation of local records and local archives and for inspection by the public of local archives. Detailed guidelines on the establishment and development of local authority archives services were issued to local authorities in December 1996. The Department assists local authorities to engage the services of a qualified archivist and funding in respect of the cost of renting accommodation for the purpose of processing archives was also made available.
The Department also financed and co-ordinated a survey of local authority records and archives which was published in 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.