The Linen Hall Library
The only subscription library still remaining in Ireland
'No institution in Northern Ireland has done more to promote enlightenment and represent a better future for all our citizens.' Seamus Heaney.
Based in Belfast city centre, the Linen Hall Library is the city’s oldest library and last subscribing library in Ireland. Since its foundation in 1788, the library has not only brought a resplendent grace to its city centre location, but has survived various low points to emerge today as Belfast's unrivalled cultural bastion with some 4500 members.
The Linen Hall is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collections, which range from early Belfast and Ulster printed books, to some 250,000 items in its Northern Ireland Political Collection, a unique resource of printed material and ephemera relating to the recent Troubles.
Other holdings include the minutes and records of the Belfast Charitable Society from 1752 to 1977, the minutes of Belfast Trades' Council, and the minutes and records of the Linen Hall Library itself.
The Theatre and Performing Arts Archive inclues a collection of eighteenth century play scripts and nineteenth century playbills, as well as acquisitions from modern day Ulster actors, playwrights, managers and companies.
Of course there are also bestsellers, classics, daily newspapers and magazines in the extensive general lending collection.
Numbers visiting the library rose by 30,000 last year, which is proof that increasing numbers are appreciating the only institution in the heart of the city devoted purely to cultural purposes. Today the Linen Hall offers a full programme of events from exhibitions, music, theatre and lectures to readings groups and walking tours.
Visitors are always welcome to visit the Linen Hall—to browse the collections, take in an exhibition, or just relax with a newspaper in the coffee shop. Free weekly tours of the library and its collections are available.
The library website offers a wide range of information including access to the library catalogue and information about events. The Linen Hall is the first library in Northern Ireland to offer e-commerce facilities and a new online shop was launched in December 2003 by playwright Marie Jones. Now users can take out membership and purchase prints, books, publications and gifts online.
For more information see www.linenhall.com, call 028 9087 2200 or simply visit.