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Dublin City Public Libraries have embarked on a programme of refurbishment and access improvement in a number of branch libraries. 'Focus On...' features three examples of libraries which have benefited so far from this initiative:

  • Dolphin's Barn
  • Drumcondra, and
  • Pembroke.

Dolphin's Barn Library

Dublin City Public Libraries’ Finance & Building plan for 2008 included the refurbishment of a branch library to be funded from the Libraries revenue budget. It was thought that a focused approach to one library would be of long-term benefit to all libraries in future improvement programmes. It has been the practice up to now, to replace like for like, meaning the overall look of a library rarely changed and in fact, new furniture/fittings would be absorbed by their surroundings.

Dolphin's Barn Library...before and after

It was decided that Dolphin’s Barn was the most suitable candidate for improvement works (see ‘before’ photo). A scope was decided on based on both the aesthetic and functional requirements. Dolphin’s Barn had been for some time in need of a new floor due to the deterioration over time of the original wood-effect tiles. Also in need of attention was the lighting system, which had become unsuitable both from a functional point of view and also aesthetic. Like many other branches of its age, Dolphin’s Barn had a large, unwelcoming counter, built like a fortress around the staff, which too would have to be replaced. Likewise, the shelving, lounge furniture and mismatching desks bought at different times to accommodate new technologies, contributed to the overall dilapidated state of the library. Despite the best efforts of the staff there to display their stock, and make the library an exciting and engaging space, it was an uphill struggle.

Dublin City Public Libraries engaged the services of a designer that has worked extensively on libraries across the UK to design a new floorplan for the library taking into account the changes detailed above and also to provide a colour scheme that would brighten up the library. Based on the final design and after a process of tendering for suppliers, the works began with the replacement of the lighting, with the floor following after. The floor was completed over the last bank holiday weekend when the old desk was demolished. New shelving, lounge and study furniture and new desks for PCs and other technologies were also installed over the weekend and following week, along with the new counter.

Dolphin’s Barn has been transformed into a vibrant, colourful and exciting new library. However, with some nice features from the old library remaining, we also have a library that has the character sometimes lacking in the sales catalogues.

Drumcondra Library

Drumcondra Library is the first DCPL branch to undergo improvements under the Library Access Programme as part of Dublin City Council’s commitment to making the city accessible to all. 


Through the access works Drumcondra Library has benefited from a new access ramp, automatic entrance doors, improved signage, an accessible circulation desk, a public toilet, new library shelving and furniture, upgraded lighting and heating,  and a full repaint. 

To enable the access works staff at Drumcondra library initially concentrated their efforts on three areas: 

  1. Site preparation including packing up library areas such as the kitchen, storage areas, office, and a portion of the collection itself;
  2. Service continuity planning in collaboration with the mobile library service and neighbouring branch libraries;
  3. Local communications to ensure their customers were informed of the upcoming works, temporary closure, and service continuity plan.


Drumcondra Library closed its doors on Saturday 21st November 2009 for the commencement of access works. The Mobile Library rolled onto Millmount Avenue from Monday 23rd November 2009 offering 19.5 hours of service on site to the community per week [including all day Saturdays]. 

In addition to supporting service continuity on the mobiles other members of Drumcondra Library staff were placed with neighbouring branches such as Ballymun and Phibsboro for the duration of the access works. In so doing added value was afforded to Drumcondra customers not only in encountering familiar Drumcondra Library staff members, but in directly gaining updates on access works progress.

Throughout the access works opportunities also arose for working in close collaboration with various Dublin City Public Library sections including: Finance on access works developments such as the new library layout; Reader Services on new stock acquisition; Development on communications strategies and re-opening event organisation; and with book intake staff in Cabra Bibliographic Centre. 

In early May staff returned to site to begin the process of preparing the library for re-opening.  Approximately 220 boxes of stock were re-shelved, and 30 boxes of new stock added. The ‘buffer’ period also gave an opportunity to weed and withdraw some stock in preparation for the delivery of 90+ boxes of inter-library loans returned stock to site.


The library re-opened to the public on Monday 23rd May with visitors at times queuing out the door the first week. Bolstered by customer goodwill, built in part by seamless continuity of service during the access works and a responsive communications strategy [involving a mail shot to all active adult customers], they have seen many regular customers and many new faces visit Drumcondra Library.

Pembroke Library

Pembroke Library reopened on 16th August following the completion of universal access improvement works.

The first major improvement to access that a member of the public will see when visiting the library is the ramp, built to best practice standards. The wooden porch, which was not aesthetically sympathetic to the building, as well as being in a bad state of repair, was removed to restore the entrance to the library to its original look.

Pembroke Library Entrance

Note the sign above the door. Pembroke Library is one of the few libraries of its age that didn’t have a simple “Library/Leabharlann” sign. The glass cabinet allows library staff to advertise events taking place in the library as well as providing them with flexibility for advertising changes in library arrangements, such as Christmas opening hours.

The ground floor of the library was completely refitted, including the provision of a platform lift, which for the first time will allow wheelchair users, parents with buggies, people with mobility difficulties to use the First Floor of the library. The pictures below show first, the library before the works began and then after, highlighting the new furniture and fittings. The colour of the new shelving contrasts with the floor for people with visual impairments and upwards tilting shelves are used at low levels for ease of access to the stock. The shelves have been placed as far apart as possible to provide access to wheelchair users, without losing a significant amount of shelf space.

Pembroke Library Interior

Accessible signage has been placed throughout the library.

When carrying out the upgrade of the lighting on the ground floor, the contractors, working from above, discovered high quality floorboards throughout the Junior Library. Dublin City Public Libraries funded the restoration of the floorboards from funding provided through the annual revenue budget. The walls and shelving were fully repainted and the Junior Library is now a vibrant and colourful space for the children to enjoy.

Pembroke Library Children Space

As well as universal access improvement works, Pembroke Library became the first of Dublin City Public Libraries’ branches to have self service facilities.

 5183874435_f3bddae2c4_o Source: Dublin City Public Libraries; DCPLive: Dublin City Public Libraries Staff Newsletter

More images of Dublin City Council's  improvement works for Drumcondra, Pembroke and Rathmines libraries can be seen here.

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