Retro: Linenhall Library and ‘greater leaning to joys of literature’ (1932)

“Our intention in the immediate future is to decide on some alteration on a large scale of the lower floor so as to provide more space in some attractive surroundings,” declared Major Robert Workman, president, when he presided at the annual meeting of the members of the Linenhall Library, Belfast, during this week in 1932, reported the News Letter.

He added: “If out of the present bad times there comes good we may congratulate ourselves as a society on being the instrument for furthering a great good, which is the fruit of these chastening times, for people’s minds are turning more and more to the solid joys of reading literature than in recent years.

“While the decline in the number of members still continues, it has been definitely arrested, and there has been increases in the issues of all classes of literature. After several years of negotiation we have at last induced the Library Association to allow us to purchase their books under special discount terms, placing us on an equal footing with other libraries, and without spending more money, enabling us to provide a far greater number of books.”

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Major Workman reflected: “The passing of Dr Lindsay and Mr Kyle (governors) is deplored, as they rendered conspicuous services to the library.”

An inside photograph of the Linenhall Library in the 1980s. In 1819, the earliest year in which there was a record of the number of books held by the library, there were some 3,210 volumes “on the shelves”, by 1888 the library possessed some 25,000 works. Today in the 21st century the library holds an estimated 250,000 volumes “and many thousands of more ephemeral items”. PICTURE: News Letter Archives

The report of the governors showed that the total number of subscribers at the end of 1931 was 2,235, as compared with 2,305 the previous year. “This was the smallest decrease for several years,” noted the News Letter.

It added: “It was interesting to note that notwithstanding the reduced membership there were 6,157 more books issued than in 1930.”

The librarian’s report stated that the book issues were 258,850. The number of books purchased in all classes was 2,963, as compared with 3,445 in the year 1930, 2 084 volumes being fiction and 879 general literature.

At a meeting of the governors of the Linenhall Library, among the books ordered were the following - Bobbe (Mrs D de B), Fanny Kemble; Gore (John), Charles Gore, Father and Son; Haestier (R E J Guilt-Edged Insecurity; Hall (D J), Enchantcd Sand; Huxley (Julian), A Scientist Among the Soviets; Nevinson (C R), Modern Masters of Etching, No 31; Palmer (W T), Wales: Its History and Romance; Shaw (Bernard), Pen Portraits and Reviews; Sitwell (Edith), Bath; Studio Year Book, 1932; Stamp (Sir Josiah), The Financial Aftermath of War; Weuham (Edward), Domestic Silver of Great Britain and Ireland; Wilcken (U), Alexander the Great.