the linen hall library

The Linen Hall Library founded 1788


The Linen Hall Library is a truly unique institution. Founded in 1788, it is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Ireland.

It has a radical and 'enlightenment' foundation, and ever since has prized its independence and has maintained the principle that its resources are owned by the community for the community.

It is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collection, ranging from comprehensive holdings of Early Belfast and Ulster printed books to the c.350,000 items in the Northern Ireland Political Collection, the definitive archive of the recent troubles.

The Library also boasts the Northern Ireland Theatre and Performing Arts Archive, a unique collection reflecting our rich cultural heritage. The Linen Hall has an illustrious profile as a centre of cultural and creative life and offers a varied programme of events ranging from monthly exhibitions to readings and lectures.


The Linen Hall Library has unique collections comprising c.250,000 volumes, and many thousands of more ephemeral items. Originally Belfast's only general library, it has an extensive General Collection (Levels 2 and 4), and a Children's Collection (Level 2). 

The Library is best known for its Irish and Local Studies Collection (Level 4), which includes a wide range of specialisms in form and content, and notably the Northern Ireland Political Collection, and the Theatre & Performing Arts Archive (Level 4).

The Library has a significant Genealogy and Heraldry Collection, and one of the largest collections of Burns & Burnsiana outside Scotland (Level 4).

The Library holds its own archives and those of others, along with literary manuscripts, in its Archives and Manuscripts Collection (Level 4).


Housed in listed former linen warehouse built in 1865 and acquired in 1896; located in Belfast city centre. Extension opened September 2000.

Contact information

Samantha McCombe, Librarian
17 Donegall Square North, Belfast BT1 5GD

Monday-Friday 9.30-17.30; Saturday 9.30-16.00

Reference use by non-members



Registered charity no. NIC104564