Public Libraries


With over 17 million visits annually, libraries play an important community role as centres of knowledge, information and culture. As a result of ongoing investment in the public library service, quality of life is being is being improved and new opportunities for education, life-long learning, leisure  and personal  development  have  been developed  through enhanced  multimedia  and ICT services.  You  can  access  local  library  information  via  each  city  or  county  council  website. Alternatively you will find up-to-date contact details for your local library on the library website (external link), managed by the Local Government Management Agency, Libraries Development, which publishes news and information about libraries in Ireland.

The current profile of the public library service, according to the most recent data, is as follows –

  • 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
  •  754,748 members in 2016
  • 17,270,751 visits to libraries in 2016
  • 7,983,358 items issued in 2016

In 2016, library members had access to 12 million books across the country as part of the national catalogue and distribution system.

New Public Library Strategy 2018-2022

The new public library strategy “Our Public Libraries 2022 – inspiring, connecting and empowering communities was developed by the Department of Rural and Community Development, the County and City Management Association and the Local Government Management Agency.  The strategy was launched by Minister Michael Ring, T.D. on 14 June 2018.  The strategy will cover a five-year period from 2018 to 2022.  It will build on progress and expand the initiatives commenced under the previous strategy “Opportunities for All: A Strategy for Public Libraries” and will focus on promoting the library service as a key community resource, seeking to increase library membership and usage by individuals and communities and recommencing a formal programme of investment in library buildings, technology and facilities.

The Strategy is underpinned by three Strategic Programmes largely shaped by the public consultation reflecting the core functions of the public library service including Reading and Literacy, Information and Learning, and Community and Culture.

The public library

is now a free service for everyone in all libraries across the country

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 book-stock, e-books, e-audiobooks and e-magazines on health and well-being, 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

Provides  access  to  information  and  guides  people  who  are  seeking  information  is  an essential support for learning, development and well-being

Provides access to a large collection of free online resources, with more than –

–     400 e-learning courses and 80 online language courses

–     17,000 e-books and 7,000 digital audio books; and

–     300 international magazine titles and 1,300 accessible newspapers.

Right to Read Programme

The Right to Read Programme is a National initiative to deliver systematic literacy support at local level and is in line with and complements existing literacy programmes and initiatives. Rolled out nationally  in  2017,  the  programme  is  underpinned  by  guidelines  for  each  local  authority  to commence implementation and a Right to Read co-ordinator is in place in each area.

The framework to deliver the initiative was developed in partnership by the members of the Right To Read Steering Group i.e. the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport through Sport Ireland City and County Librarians, the Local Government Management Agency as well as representatives from the City and County Management Association. Local implementation will be led by the City or County librarian supported by a Right to Read Network.

Local Literacy Action Plans are being developed for each local authority area to provide continuity and reinforcement outside of formal education, supporting children, parents and adults with low levels of literacy.  The Right to Read Campaign is collaborative, integrated approach between local authorities, education bodies and community organisations to deliver a sustainably literacy support into the future which is standard across the country. Public libraries will take a leading role for local government in delivering the Right to Read programme a standard service offer identified during the pilot phase of the programme and will bring together the knowledge and experience of skilled staff in local authority services and local agencies. Local implementation will be led by the City or County librarian supported by a Right to Read Network.

Since 2016 nationally agreed collection of services that public libraries provide to primary and post- primary 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, work to build on this initiative is on-going.

Healthy Ireland at Your Library

The Healthy Ireland at Your Library programme aims to establish libraries as the “go-to” place for health information in communities. This free service, accessible to all, will help to reduce health inequalities, inform the public of threats to their health and wellbeing. The book stock and online resources purchased will include stock focused on the priority areas of

Healthy Ireland including obesity, tobacco use, healthy eating and sexual health.

Online Services

Learning at the Library

Local Studies

Libraries Development

Libraries Development is the national advisor and development agency for public libraries in Ireland. Libraries Development (link is external)was established in 2012 within the Local Government Management Agency 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.