Most online public library catalogues have a similar structure. Some allow you – through the use of a PIN number – to check what items you currently have on your account, to renew items, and even to reserve items online. Call into your local library to find out about acquiring a PIN number.
All of the websites offer some information about the local authority’s library service. This can include a list of all of the branches, including addresses and opening hours, as well as telephone/email contact details. Many of the websites explain how to join the library, including, if relevant, any fees involved and the documentation required. This can be very useful, preventing a return trip if you do not carry this kind of documentation with you.
All libraries have reference materials in their branches. Many of these reference materials are now also available online. As we shall see a large number of libraries offer access to these services in their branches and some are now also offering access on their websites. By obtaining a PIN from your branch you can access online reference resources, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The development of local studies collections – containing a wide variety of historical and contemporary materials relating to a city or county – is a core function of all public library authorities. Some material is rare and much is of great interest. Most library websites have a local studies section. Information on holdings and instructions on to how to access them are included (in many cases it is necessary to make an appointment to view material). Other websites show examples of their collections on the websites – in some cases a significant amount of local studies information/material is available online, everything from local maps and letters to Ordnance Survey maps and photographs.
The Clare County Library website (www.clarelibrary.ie) is such an example.
Click on ‘local studies’ on the left-hand side of the home page. On the local studies page there are contact details and opening hours for the local studies collection, detailed descriptions of the local studies collection as well as links to a considerable amount of online material. For example you can view items such as photographs and maps.