Showcasing Laois History and Heritage
An Initiative of Laois Library Service


Laois Local Studies is a reference library and research centre dedicated to the collection of material on all aspects of life in Laois. This rich collection, much of it unique, consists of books, journals, newspapers, maps, photographs, audiovisual recordings and archives. It serves as a focal point for all who wish to further their knowledge and understanding of life in Laois, past and present.

Local Studies, located on the first floor of Portlaoise Library, has a dedicated member of staff offering friendly assistance, support and advice to visiting researchers and remote users. The service and research room are open to all, from students and historians, to enthusiastic and curious members of the public. Remote users can access the service via email of telephone. The service is free, excluding charges for photocopying and printing.

Local Studies aims to promote our collections, activities and projects amongst the general public. We co-operate with local schools to foster an understanding of local history and to support the national curriculum. We engage with local historians and Laois heritage groups to encourage and facilitate further research and publication on Laois history and society. We co-operate with other libraries, archives and government agencies to raise awareness of Laois related resources and to enhance access through digitisation and online services.

Laois Local Studies Digitisation Project aims to make available online a selection of its resources. The project prioritises unique and popular collections to engage local, national and international visitors to our website. High demand archival material is also being digitised to prevent deterioration and enhance access to remote users. Newly digitised material will be regularly uploaded to this website under the relevant collection headings.

Laois Local Studies Digital Archive includes material from private collections. Members of the public who feel they hold relevant material can arrange to have the material digitsed by Local Studies and returned to them. This allows the material to be displayed online, providing access to the public without the obligation of outright donation. For further information please contact Laois Local Studies to speak to a member of staff on our acquisition and digitisation policies.


Copyright Notice

Copyright material uploaded onto this website is available for the purposes of research and private study only. Content of the website cannot be extracted or reutilised for any competing or commercial purposes without the written consent of Laois Local Studies (Laois County Library) and the copyright holder.

In 1925, Helen Roe, a native of Mountrath, was appointed the first County Librarian in Laois. Under the Carnegie Library scheme she received a grant of £2000 to set up a public library system in the county. The new county book repository or library was given two small apartments at the Old Gaol premises in Portlaoise and from these humble beginnings the library service commenced. Funding and poor premises continued to be a significant challenge. The library service gradually expanded to other parts of the county, but premises were poor and services were very part time. Over the next 98 years, with commitment from Laois County Council, elected members, an Chomhairle Leabharlanna and dedicated staff, the service developed into the county wide modern service it is today. A new modern library was constructed in Portlaoise in 1994 to serve the town’s growing population needs. It was the first computerised and automated library branch in the county and initiated a new modern approach to library services. On 17 July 2023 the new County Library was officially opened by Minister Heather Humphries. The new state of the art premises in situated on Portlaoise main street in the heart of the town’s heritage and cultural quarter. The new library is home to Laois Local Studies, a reference library and research room dedicated to all aspects of life in Laois. Local Studies is open anyone interested in exploring the local and social history of the county for research or pleasure.

The major advances in technology and their impact on society over the last two decades has created a shift in the focus of the library service. There is a greater emphasis on the provision of  IT services, at branch and online level. EBooks and resources are now available, free of charge, through the library website Free Wifi and access to high speed broadband is available in library branches.  Local libraries have targeted services for different groups, particularly children. A planned program of events, close co-operation with local and national agencies and increased community involvement, has positioned the library as a vital and vibrant community space and service. Library Headquarters provides administrative support to local branches. 

The Library service continues to play a pivotal role for all communities in County Laois. It offers an efficient frontline service for all members, providing access to books, media, online services and internet/ Wifi.  In 2019 our libraries had over 10,000 members, while the yearly visitor number exceeded 239,000. The continued investment in adult and juvenile stock has resulted in the issue of approximately 225,000 items including books, audio-books, periodicals, DVDs and local history material.

Visit the Library Service Website.

The new Portlaoise Library is now complete and open to the public. The new facility is a central branch library for Portlaoise town and environs and a local studies and genealogy section for the County.

The new library is located at 23 Main Street, Portlaoise, the site previously occupied by Shaw’s Department Store. This site was acquired by Laois County Council in late 2013 for the purpose of providing a state of the art Library facility for Portlaoise town.  

It is in a pivotal street corner position, ideally located in very close proximity to shops, schools, services and car parking. The floor space of the library is in excess of 10,000 sq ft.

The new Portlaoise Library is critical to the regeneration of the Portlaoise Main Street and part of the heritage and cultural quarter of the town alongside the Old Fort, Dunamaise Theatre and Laois School of Music.

The new library includes the following

Lounging area overlooking Main Street for reading and relaxation

Adult Library with fiction and non-fiction

IT area with printing, photocopying and scanning facilities

Community activity space

Children’s library with exhibition and activities area

Local Studies section and reading room

Administration offices for Library staff