Meet the man steeped in the history of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library – Mr John Killen

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Chief librarian John Killen proudly clutching the library's oldest book


Belfast’s Linen Hall Library is not only the city’s oldest library but is also Ireland’s last subscribing library. Steeped in history, this most treasured of institutions is custodian to some of Ireland’s most precious collections: from holdings of Early Belfast and Ulster printed books to the definitive archive of the recent troubles.

  • Do you happen to know what an incunable is?
  • Do you know what is the oldest book in the Linen Hall Library?
  • Do you know that Henry Joy McCracken was in arrears with his library subscription when he was hanged in 1798?
  • How would you like to be party to the Linen Hall Library’s 225th anniversary next year?

Encyclopaedic and passionate chief librarian Mr John Killen will enlighten in our conversation below. He joined the Linen Hall Library in 1977, became Deputy Librarian in 1978 and Chief Librarian in 2010. I spoke to Mr Killen about the history of the library, the library’s history in Ireland and his personal history in the library.

In an era of austerity with libraries across the land fighting for survival Killen is confident that the Linen Hall Library will remain a tour de force, a library owned by the community for the community:





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About Author

Eamonn Mallie

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.

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