Aerial view of the reading room at the National library of Ireland

Get Into Irish Libraries

An Introduction

This article originated in a desire to provide a ‘landscape report’ on the different library sectors in Ireland, to describe their current state and future plans for the benefit of delegates to the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2022 in Dublin. The initial plan was to collect the individual contributions and synthesise them into a single seamless piece of work. Having received the contributions, however, I decided on a light-touch editorial approach. So I revised the texts for consistency of font and grammar, condensed or expanded a small number of sections and made slight stylistic changes. Otherwise, I let the authors speak for themselves.

What follows, therefore, is a series of separate standalone descriptions. The approaches adopted by each of the authors and the levels of detail differ in each piece. When put together, however, they do provide an introduction to the different library sectors in Ireland today.

Dr Philip Cohen
Irish National Committee


1. Historic Libraries in Ireland

Ireland is the home of some truly outstanding historic libraries.  Many are based in the capital and chief among them is the iconic Old Library of Trinity College Dublin but there are also other, much smaller, libraries which are well worth a visit while you are in Ireland.  These libraries not only reflect our historic past but also point to innovative ways of promoting and preserving our collections in the future.


The Bolton Library at the University of Limerick Glucksman Library

The Bolton Library is a collection of early printed books, manuscripts and incunabula of exceptional bibliographic importance.  The core of what has become known in the 21st century as the Bolton Library began life as two separate collections being amassed at various locations principally during the years 1669–1744.  These collections were the passions of two future Church of Ireland archbishops: William King (1650–1729) and Theophilus Bolton (1678–1744).  Bolton acquired a large portion of King’s collection after his death in 1729, and brought it to his home in Cashel, Co Tipperary, to join the shelves of his own growing collection there.  The library was moved to the University of Limerick in 2016 for an extensive cataloguing and conservation programme.  It reflects the interests, knowledge and concerns at that time as they sought to build a library to encompass as much as possible of humanity’s knowledge of the world.  It is strong in theology, arts, history and science. The material collected by these two men reflects individual interests and passions, as well as the output of increasingly enlightened times.  It would be a mistake to consider the Bolton Library a religious collection.  It is so much more.


The Edward Worth Library, Dublin

The Edward Worth Library is the collection of an early eighteenth-century Dublin physician, Edward Worth (1676–1733).  Worth was a connoisseur collector, fascinated by rare printing and fine bindings and his collection of over 4,300 volumes offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and see bindings in an incredible state of preservation in their original early eighteenth-century cases.  The Worth Library is housed in Dr Steevens’ Hospital, an early eighteenth-century foundation of which Worth was a Trustee and which is now the headquarters of the Health Service Executive.  Set up in 1995, the Worth Library Trust seeks to share Worth’s collections with as many people as possible via tours, a host of online exhibitions, a research fellowship programme, publications, and other joint initiatives such as our involvement in the FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course: History of the Book in the Early Modern Period, 1450–1800, a free course which is co-ordinated by the Worth Library and the departments of English and History in Trinity College Dublin.  While the Edward Worth Library is known for its extensive medical and scientific collections (many of which have been the subject of online exhibitions), it is a must see for all those interested in the history of the book as object.


Marsh’s Library

Marsh’s Library first opened its doors to the public in 1707.  Our historic collections remain in the same place on the shelves where they were placed more than three centuries ago.  The library is a rare survival from a world long past.  It functions both as a museum of what a library looked like in the early-eighteenth century and a dynamic and welcoming space for tourist visitors, students and scholars.  We aim to preserve our historic buildings and collections and make the library relevant to new and diverse audiences in the twenty-first century.  The library is a site of intellectual and cultural significance, and our plans for the future reflect our determination to protect for future generations the building, books and artefacts under our care.  Over the past decade, we have moved to digitise our Irish manuscripts (a collaboration with Irish Script on Screen) and most recently, the diary and correspondence of our first librarian, a Huguenot refugee.  The unique printed material in the collections will be a focus of digitisation in the coming years.  Collaborations with colleagues in international organisations support our mission to make the collections more widely known at all levels.


The National Library of Ireland

The foundation collection of the National Library of Ireland is that of the Library of the Royal Dublin Society.  The National Library was established by the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act of 1877 and was based in the Society’s Leinster House premises, until the new library building on Kildare Street was opened in 1890.  The library benefits under legal deposit legislation since 1927 (for material published in the Republic of Ireland) and cares for over 12 million objects including books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, photographs, prints and drawings, and increasingly, digital material.  The Manuscripts Department and Special Collections Reading Room are at 2/3 Kildare Street.  The National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar houses the library’s photographic collections.  There are three exhibition sites which are all free to visit, and include award-winning exhibitions on Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats plus photographic exhibitions featuring the largest collection of Irish photographs in the world.  The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), at 86 Stephen’s Green, is a partnership between the library and University College Dublin.  Redevelopment of the West Wing of the National Library’s main building is ongoing and, when completed, will provide new public spaces, exhibition galleries, learning and event facilities with universal access for all.

National library of Ireland image from an exhibition

Exhibition at the National library of Ireland

The Royal Dublin Society Library & Archives

The RDS Library & Archives has been a part of the RDS from its foundation in 1731.  Its interests and collections reflect the RDS Foundation Programme areas of agriculture, science, enterprise, equestrianism and the arts.  The RDS Library & Archives collections contain over 100,000 items comprising monographs and journals of Irish and general interest, some of which are rare and date back to the earliest days of printing in Europe.  Our archival collections represent the corporate archive of the RDS.  This unique resource dates back to 1731 and includes the proceedings, minutes and correspondence of the RDS and its Council and Standing Committees, records and catalogues of its shows and exhibitions, including the RDS Spring Show and the Dublin Horse Show and material connected with Irish cultural institutions related to the RDS including the National Library, National Museum of Ireland and the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin.  We are currently in the process of digitising large parts of the collections for upload to the RDS Digital Archive.


Royal Irish Academy

The Royal Irish Academy Library, founded in 1785, holds major manuscript, book, pamphlet, and drawing collections of Irish interest. Home to the Cathach, the sixth-century Latin psalter reputed to have been copied by St Colum Cille (Columba), the library holds the largest collection of Irish language manuscripts in the world, including Lebor na hUidre (the Book of the Dun Cow) which is the oldest extant manuscript completely in Irish, the fifteenth-century Leabhar Breac (the Speckled Book), and the fourteenth-century Book of Ballymote.  The library is located in Academy House, a fine mid-eighteenth century house built by Lord Northland, at 19 Dawson Street.  We encourage the publication of texts based on our manuscripts and engage with the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies’ Irish Script on Screen project in making the manuscripts freely accessible for research and scholarly purposes.  We offer comprehensive access and outreach programmes, facilitate master classes and visits, hold exhibitions, and lecture series and digitise and publish collections.  We currently collaborate with multidisciplinary research projects such as Inks and Skins, Beyond 2022 and OS200.


Historic Collections of the Russell Library and Maynooth University Library

The Russell Library houses the historical collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth which was founded in 1795 as a seminary for the education of Irish priests.  The reading room was designed by renowned British architect and designer Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) and completed in the year 1861.  The Russell Library contains approximately 34,000 printed works dating from the 16th to the mid-19th century across a range of subjects including: theology, mathematics, science, geography and history.  Other important collections include incunabula (pre-1501 printing), medieval and Gaelic manuscripts and a collection of cuneiform tablets.  The Russell Library is a research library, open to staff and students of the Maynooth University and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  It is also open to academic visitors, researchers from other institutions and to external readers.  Readers are requested to make an appointment in advance of their visit.  In addition, there is the St. Canice’s Cathedral Library collection under the custodianship of Maynooth University Library following a long-term loan agreement with the Representative Church Body of Ireland in 2014.  This unique collection of early printed books constitutes one of the most important antiquarian book collections in Ireland.


Trinity College Dublin

The history of the library dates back to the establishment of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 1592.  It is the largest library in Ireland and holds over 6 million printed volumes with extensive collections of journals, manuscripts, maps and music reflecting over 400 years of academic development.  The most famous of its manuscripts, the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, were presented by Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath, in the 1660s.  Other special collections include the Ussher Collection acquired in 1661 and the Fagel Collection of 1802.  The library was endowed with Legal Deposit privilege in 1801 and continues to receive copies of material published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The library supports the learning and research needs across all disciplines of the College, it is a major research library of international repute, provides services to a wide range of external users and institutions, contributes to the development of creative initiatives in information provision and its exhibitions of manuscripts and other treasures attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to visit the Old Library each year.  TCD is currently preparing an ambitious redevelopment plan which will draw on the best 21st century design and technology to safeguard the Old Library building and conserve its precious collections for future generations.

Trinity College Library Long Room Lower Gallery

Trinity College Library Long Room Lower Gallery

Original Text: Elizabethanne Boran (The Edward Worth Library) and colleagues in the individual historic libraries


2. Public Libraries

Ireland has earned the moniker ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’ in homage to the Irish monks and intellectuals who became exemplars of art and literature and custodians of ancient texts during the Dark Ages.  The story of Ireland’s public libraries is also a lengthy narrative.  The hushed, oak-cased surroundings of Marsh’s Library in Dublin are home to what was Ireland’s first public library founded in 1707.  Later, and signalling the advent of the municipal public library, Dundalk Library in County Louth was the first public library in Ireland to open under the Public Libraries (Ireland) Act 1855 which allowed local authorities to establish a library and levy a maximum rate of one penny to support it.



More than 300 years since Ireland’s first public library was established, there are now 30 public library services and 330 branch libraries in the country.  This progressive and well-used network recorded almost 17 million visits in 2019.  Public libraries fall under the remit of local authorities, providing a local service with a nationwide reach as members can use all library services at any library branch in the country.  In addition, a national shared catalogue, shared Library Management System and integrated nationwide delivery system mean that members can reserve items from any public library in the country for collection in their own local branch.  Capital investment in recent years has seen €123 million invested in 17 static and 3 mobile libraries.  There is a national collection of more than 12 million items and there were more than 500,000 active library members in 2021. Joining fees and fines for late returns were removed by all public libraries in Ireland in 2019.

Public library branches in Ireland vary in size and in the scope of the services available.  Opening hours also vary, with some smaller branches offering in the region of 10 hours per week, larger central branches providing up to 50 hours per week and an increasing number offering the My Open Library service which adds up to 95 hours per week on top of the normal staffed hours.  This service provides enhanced access for the community and is expected to be available in 200 libraries nationwide in the next decade.

Culture Night, September 2019 at Pearse Street Library

Culture Night, September 2019 at Pearse Street Library

National Programmes

Public libraries in Ireland work with many different stakeholders to deliver national programmes such as a national literacy and reading programme Right to Read, with a core set of services including a Summer Reading Programme; Children’s Books Festival and this year Little Library Book Bags for every child starting primary school; a national Work Matters programme for business and employment supports aimed at entrepreneurs, start-ups and job seekers; the Healthy Ireland at Your Library programme providing support materials for health and wellbeing and events that focus on physical health, mental health and health literacy.


Digital Learning Centres and Online Services

The public library in Ireland is a key enabler of digital support services, encouraging digital skills development through the provision of Internet PCs and free Wi-Fi.  In 2019, 70 libraries in Ireland established Digital Learning Centres which include interactive screens, tablets, 3D printers, VR headsets, gaming PCs, robotics and other STEAM equipment.  These centres offer a safe space for less confident users in the community to become familiar with technology.  In addition, all public library services in Ireland provide access to a large collection of free online resources available nationally – including more than 500 flexible e-learning courses, 114 online language courses in 32 languages, more than 300 international magazine titles, 100,000 volumes of e-books and e-audio books, 3,200 online newspapers.

Pearse library building

Pearse library building

eLibrary Services During COVID-19 Lockdowns

Public libraries in Ireland moved their existing programmes to online platforms in response to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.  There was a huge increase in new library memberships and use of the online resources during this time.  Between 2019 and 2020, BorrowBox (for e-books and e-audio books) saw 151% increase in new users, 121% increase in e-book loans and 108% increase in e-audio book loans.  Many Irish public librarians became involved in providing wider social supports for vulnerable communities through their work with the Community Call Helplines while others delivered library materials directly to the homes of their users.  Many people reconnected with their local libraries during the pandemic, while others discovered their services for the first time.


National Strategic Planning for Public Libraries

The current national library strategy, Our Public Libraries 2022 – Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering Communities, has harnessed recent technological and service innovations.  It has focused on improving access, use and visibility of the public library and establishing it as the go-to place for a range of sustainable, integrated public services.  The strategy celebrates public libraries as attractive and welcoming spaces where all members of the community can access knowledge, ideas and information and where people can reflect, connect and learn.  There has also been an emphasis on supporting staff to develop and enhance their skills and to develop the confidence and capacity to be leaders both for library users and for their fellow team members.  A new strategic plan for 2023-27 is in development and will be based on the needs and opportunities of the sector in line with the vision of an inclusive, modern, sustainable and high-quality public library service at the heart of every community in Ireland.  In the ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’ one would expect nothing less.

Bright reading room with blue chairs and book stacks at DLR Lexicon Library

DLR Lexicon Library

Original Text: Eileen Morrissey (County Librarian, Wexford County Council and Vice President, Library Association of Ireland)


3. Consortium of National and University Libraries (CONUL)

CONUL is the representative body of major research libraries in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Its mission is to foster and enable “new research, excellence in scholarship and teaching, digital depth and cultural breadth”.  Members include Dublin City University, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Technological University Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick.  Other members are the National Library of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy (see above) plus Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University (beyond the scope of this article).

Prior to the unprecedented events of the last two-and-a-half years, academic libraries were already dealing with rapidly changing environments, as higher education addressed new challenges of delivering and expanding resources in the context of increasing costs, ensuring equity of access and widening participation.  The ‘digital shift’ that had commenced before the pandemic has been accelerated since early 2020 and this article sets out some key drivers and areas of focus for CONUL libraries.


The Post-Pandemic Environment

Much has already been written and presented in relation to academic libraries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the relative ease of transition to delivering services and resources remotely, including teaching and learning activities, engagement approaches, research support and access to collections.  In 2022, while campuses have re-opened and onsite services resumed, it is acknowledged that there has been a paradigm shift.  The now-tired phrase ‘the new normal’ was used to describe a possible changed environment for academic libraries where it was felt some services and delivery mechanisms might cease entirely, replaced by a ‘digital-first’ approach.  In fact, it can be accepted that academic libraries, as with wider society, are still in a process of transition and change.  Libraries, within the broader university environment, are figuring out the balance of providing in-person services, along with opportunities to access resources, engage in teaching and learning activities and avail of services online.  It may be argued that this digital shift is in fact not a transition from the physical or analogue to digital but instead an ongoing transformation and a blending of both approaches.  Below, I set out some features of the academic library landscape that form part of such a transformation.


Access to Physical and Digital Collections

During periods of lockdown, electronic resources and access to them were hugely significant for the research, teaching and learning environment.  Academic libraries proved themselves to be well-placed to pivot to a primarily digital model, engaging with publishers to extend and enhance their e-resource provision through additional licensing arrangements.  The need for print material continued, however, despite some arguments to the contrary.  Academic libraries offered extremely popular ‘click and collect’ models to access print collections, which have been retained in many cases and continued in popularity, helping to meet the needs of a more dispersed and diverse user community.  But the enhanced use of our electronic resources has brought an even keener focus on the challenge of developing electronic collections with limited time, reduced budgets and the challenge of negotiating deals with publishers that are equitable and affordable.  The #ebooksSOS campaign in Ireland and the UK has brought attention to the enormous cost of e-books compared to print equivalents, the challenges of the licensing models and the need to fully investigate open access opportunities and OERs (open educational resources).


Changed Teaching & Learning Environment

Academic libraries have always been key partners in the teaching & learning activities of their institutions, offering embedded, standalone and tailored classes.  The demand for classes increased substantially during the pandemic, with a rapid shift to online delivery.  This resulted in several major changes: the ability to use technology to deliver synchronous (live) and asynchronous (recorded) classes, the use of reusable learning objects, their combination to maximise student and academic participation, embedding them more easily into the course curriculum, and greater use of online learning platforms to increase student engagement and active learning through online assessment and feedback.  Academic libraries have always been early adopters of instructional technology and teaching & learning librarians adapted well to the online environment during COVID-19.  As face-to-face classes have resumed, the challenge now is to continue to harness the learning from the delivery methods adopted during the pandemic to create a hybrid, user-focused teaching approach for the long term – working with academic and professional support colleagues to facilitate the ongoing development of online and blended learning opportunities.


Research Support

The way in which research support services are provided by academic libraries has been transformed since 2020.  The online environment has greatly benefited the research community (students on taught Masters programmes up to post-doctoral researchers and early career academics), allowing them to balance research and writing with their personal commitments and to easily engage with colleagues both locally and at a distance.  Researchers have continued to express a preference to engage online, even as face-to-face delivery recommenced.  They use online platforms and events facilitated by libraries to present their research and participate in shared-interest cross-disciplinary networks which were previously more challenging and time-consuming to hold in-person.  The discussion on open research has accelerated since COVID-19, with academic libraries playing a key role in developing open scholarship policies, leading in the area of research data management, the creation of data management plans and enhancing institutional repositories to ensure university research output is captured, shared and disseminated widely.


Changing Student Needs

Undoubtedly, higher education students have been significantly affected by the pandemic restrictions, experiencing their first year in university almost exclusively online, with none of the normal social interactions they could have expected.  The Enhancing Digital Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities project (EDTL) was a three year project aimed at “enhancing the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish university students through enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process.”  The project gained increased significance during COVID-19.  A survey of students in the summer of 2021 found that many of them wanted to be fully on campus, others wanted to be able to attend remotely, at least part of the time, and more would like flexibility of choice regarding how they engage in their learning.  Consequently, universities need to balance competing imperatives of student preference in order to deliver an holistic and academically meaningful learning experience.  University libraries can play their part by structuring resources, engagement opportunities and classes to ensure students are being met at their point of need, have equity of access, whether onsite or studying remotely, and are provided with a variety of ways to ask questions and have them answered quickly.

Original Text: Áine Carey (Assistant Librarian, Maynooth University Library)


4. Technological Universities and Institutes of Technology Libraries

Forty per cent of students (245,663) attending public higher education in Ireland attend a Technological Higher Education Institution, with more than half of them studying part-time (HEA Enrolment Data 2020/2021).  These institutions comprise Atlantic Technological University, Munster Technological University, South East Technological University, Technological University Dublin and Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest plus Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology Dun Laoghaire.

Established from 1970 onwards, these institutions have grown from Regional Technical Colleges serving the needs of their locale to playing a pivotal role nationally and internationally in providing Certificate, Diploma, Degree, Masters and PhD programmes, as well as increasing research activity.  Additionally, these institutions offer several pathways and links to higher education through established relationships with further education colleges, industry and apprenticeships.  They offer extensive lifelong learning and part-time courses and support a high level of mature students returning to higher education or starting their higher education for the first time.  Class sizes are generally smaller than in a more traditional university.

Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities have more than fifty years’ experience in delivering high quality library services and expertise to support and strengthen the teaching, learning and research needs of their staff and students.  Libraries provide physical spaces for individual and group learning and deliver vast print and online collections, including unique and distinctive collections.  Library staff supply information literacy resources and tutorials to individuals and in classes, both face-to-face and online.  In addition, libraries provide dedicated specialist knowledge to enrich digital scholarship and research.  Finally, the sector has a strong collaborative culture of library staff sharing knowledge and expertise with one another and across the wider library profession.

Original Text: Dr Mary Delaney (Head of Library and Information Services, South East Technological University Carlow Library)


5. HECA Libraries

Formed in 1991, the Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA) represents twelve member institutions, comprising most of the major independent colleges in Ireland and educating 27,000 students.  All HECA members are state accredited, delivering validated programmes across a diverse range of disciplines, at Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Masters levels.

HECA libraries have modern learning spaces, extensive print and online collections and discovery searching software.  They support the teaching, learning and research activities of their institutions with a variety of support services, including programme-embedded information literacy and academic integrity initiatives.  The libraries have a strong focus on open science and scholarship – many of them use the KOHA open source Library Management System, institutional repositories have been established using software such as dSpace and Digital Commons and open access journals have been launched or are in development.  The HECA Library Committee is a key resource for library staff to share knowledge and to engage with the wider library community both nationally and internationally.

Original Text: Patricia O’Sullivan (Executive Director, Higher Education Colleges Association)


6. School Libraries

On 17th April 2022, an article appeared in the Irish Independent, with the headline “€20m grant funding announced for School Libraries”.  The article went on to explain that this fund, from the Department of Education, would provide schools all over Ireland with resources to “enhance their library catalogues” (sic).  Any grant towards school library resources is welcome but as the vast majority of schools in Ireland do not have a school library (i.e. a dedicated space run by a qualified librarian) it is misleading to state this grant is for school libraries.  In fact, although most fee-paying schools have libraries staffed by professional librarians, there are only thirty publicly funded schools in Ireland that have professionally staffed libraries.  These libraries were set up as part of the JCSP Demonstration Library Project which began as a research project in eleven schools in 2002, with plans to further expand to 50 schools by 2010.  Despite the evidenced impact of the initiative on student engagement, retention and literacy development, expansion remains on hold in 2022.  This is regrettable because JCSP is an innovative, collaborative and creative project which has significantly impacted on teaching and learning in our school communities.  Warm, bright, comfortable spaces have been created within project schools in which students can learn, grow and develop through access to the library resources, through participation in the wide range of library-based initiatives, activities and events and, very importantly, through the support and guidance of the school librarian.

Considering the poor status of school libraries in Ireland, this €20m funding will likely be used to stock shelves at the back of classrooms and unless teachers have enough time and enthusiasm to catalogue, classify and promote the books, they are at risk of gathering dust over time.  The main problem here in Ireland has been the lack of understanding that a school library needs a dedicated space and a school librarian.  School librarians can foster a love of reading, teach research and digital literacy skills, inspire and transform the library space into a welcoming, educational, exploratory, digital, creative, cultural and most importantly a community space.  The School Libraries Group of the Library Association of Ireland has been campaigning that every school in Ireland should be provided with resources for a school library, run by a qualified librarian.  A recent report on reform of the School Leaving Certificate supported this view and its top ten recommendations included the need for school libraries.

Thanks to government support and initiative there is a wonderful culture and appreciation of public libraries here in Ireland that has helped enrich our literature and cultural heritage.  Now we trust the government will extend this support and appreciation to school libraries so that all of society can benefit.  The first step towards achieving this, is to understand what school libraries really are and what school librarians can really do.

Original Text: Kathleen Moran (Senior Librarian of the JCSP Library Project and Chair, School Libraries Group of the Library Association of Ireland) and Andrea Dillon (Secretary, School Libraries Group of the Library Association of Ireland)


7. Irish Health Librarians

Irish health librarians and information professionals work in a variety of settings which can be broadly divided into three groups: hospital librarians, either working as part of Health Library Ireland or in publicly funded voluntary hospitals; librarians and information specialists working in publicly funded health and research agencies; and librarians working as health-related subject librarians (or in health science faculties) in universities and other higher education institutions.


Recent Activities and Future Plans

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is the national body responsible for public health services in Ireland.  Health Library Ireland was set up in 2016 in order to consolidate regional HSE library structures.  The first strategy was published in 2018 and has been largely implemented.  Much of the strategy focuses on delivering knowledge services to everyone working in the HSE and includes the roll-out of a National eHealth Library for everyone working in the publicly funded health sector.  During the recent pandemic, Irish health librarians across many organisations were involved in literature searching for rapid reviews and evidence summaries on COVID-19.  Health Library Ireland developed a platform for “COVID-19 Evidence and Clinical Guidance”.  In very difficult circumstances, the pandemic highlighted the value of our highly specialised searching skills in finding high quality evidence-based health information and making it available and accessible to health professionals and the general public.

Health librarians and information professionals are represented by the Health Sciences Libraries Group (HSLG) of the Library Association of Ireland.  This is a very active group with a lively discussion list, a journal club and regular newsletter.  It hosts a conference every year as well as organising other CPD and networking events.  Membership is open to all members of the LAI with an interest in health information and librarianship.  The HSLG launched its virtual Journal Club (vJC) in April 2021. This is a collaborative effort with the goal of providing an online active knowledge-sharing space to support CPD and to support one another professionally at a time when it has been hard to meet physically.  At the time of writing, the vJC has met four times and an article about its inception has recently been published in the Journal of Health Information and Libraries Australasia (JOHILA).  HSLG held its annual conference in March this year.  It was the first in-person meeting since the outbreak of COVID-19, not only for the group, but for all Irish librarians.  The group is currently working on a framework to enhance its provision and support of CPD activity, identified as one of the main benefits of membership.

Original Text: Aoife Lawton (General Manager, National Health Library and Knowledge Service, Health Service Executive)


8. Corporate Libraries

Twenty years ago, there were in-house libraries managed by librarians in many industries in the private sector: accountancy, banking, engineering, law, manufacturing and others.  This library sector has changed considerably since then.  While there are still some librarians working in the private sector, using their information management skills, they are not necessarily working in or managing library services.  The legal sector is an exception, with many of Ireland’s corporate law firms having an in-house library staffed by law librarians.  These librarians manage and develop print and online collections, enquiry services, legal information literacy programmes, current awareness services and library and knowledge management systems.

In recent years, law librarians have taken on the challenges of hybrid working brought about by COVID-19.  Whilst print text books are still important in the legal world, the move to a hybrid working model has accelerated the reliance on digital resources.  Thus, law librarians work closely with practitioners to ensure that they have online access to all the materials they need when they need it and training on the use of such resources is recognised as a priority.  As information technology is evolving so too is the role of the law firm librarian and the future looks bright.

Original Text: Ann O’Sullivan (Knowledge Services Manager, A&L Goodbody)


9. Government Libraries

The Government Libraries sector in Ireland remains strong and vibrant, although its profile has changed significantly over the past 20 years.  Many government departments no longer have a library and, if they do, it is often not staffed by qualified librarians.  However, the sector has seen growth in government agencies and analogous independent agencies.

The job titles of staff in this library sector are varied – including Librarian, Information Manager and Knowledge Manager.  The roles are also varied, with many involved in traditional library activities such as collection management, acquisition, current awareness and research support.  New roles include intranet and website management, knowledge management, repository management and information literacy training.  Undoubtedly, the role of government libraries will continue to develop in support of government strategies and a policy of evidence-based decision making and digital government.

Government librarians network and share experience through the Government Libraries Section (GLS) of the Library Association of Ireland.  The GLS also strives to promote and develop the role of libraries throughout the civil service.

Original Text: Noeleen Murtagh (Librarian, Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Acting Chair, Government Libraries Section of the Library Association of Ireland)