Week of events as library ushers in 125th birthday

Belfast Central Library to mark 125th Anniversary with year-long celebration
Belfast Central Library to mark 125th Anniversary with year-long celebration

One of the most recognisable buildings in Belfast city centre is celebrating 125 years in existence.

Belfast Central Library survived the twin horrors of the Blitz and the Troubles, and in honour of its latest auspicious anniversary it will be hosting a programme of free events for the public.

The sandstone Victorian-era library first opened its doors on October 13, 1888.

It soon is embarking on what it describes as a “celebratory week” to mark the occasion.

From Saturday, October 12 to 18 activities will be taking place, with further events planned over the next year.

And ahead of this, yesterday afternoon saw music, drama and poetry at the library.

The building originally opened the same year Belfast was accorded its city status, and today an estimated 400,000-plus visitors enter it every year.

Despite its position off the city centre’s main thoroughfare, the building largely escaped the effects of The Troubles, suffering only the occasional broken window.

However, during World War Two the German airforce did damage the structure.

Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said that it had been repaired down the years, but often not very well, so about two years ago it underwent a circa £1m refurbishment of its roof and exterior.

Among its collections today are the manuscripts of Amanda McKittrick Ross (also known as Ros), the Ulster poet and novelist who became renowned for her appalling writing, and a vast newspaper library – including early copies of the News Letter, the oldest English language daily paper in the word, dating back to 1737, 150 years before the library.

Ms Knox said: “We are indeed going to be here in another 125 years. The building and library will be here – we won’t be.”

There will be a family fun day on Saturday with Victorian-style photo shoots, children’s storytelling and pass-the-parcel, as well as a portable planetarium.

The celebration programme resumes on Monday with piano recitals, poetry and more, and continues to Friday.

Other events and exhibitions are planned throughout 2013 and 2014.

“Libraries are still as relevant today,” added Ms Knox.

“And still will have a role in terms of helping people and supporting people in the next 125 years.”

Events are listed at: www.librariesni.org.uk/belfast125/