The Government has launched its five-year strategy for public libraries, which aims to improve access, use and visibility of the library as a community hub, and develop the library as a focal point for community and cultural development.

The overall aim of the strategy is to increase active library membership from 16% of the population to 30% by the end of 2022.

It will also focus on eliminating fines and other charges and, according to Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, challenge the belief that the library is only for certain sectors of society.

The My Open Library service will be extended to up to 100 libraries by 2023 and digital and technology capacity across the library service will be enhanced.

My Open Library involves the use of self service technology by visitors who can scan books and other content in and out when library staff are not there.

The scheme has been piloted in Banagher and Tullamore in Co Offaly.

Over a 12-month period opening hours in Banagher increased by 85% and visits were up by 183% over the period, while opening hours in Tullamore increased by 63% and visits were up by 76% over the period.