Biblioblond takes on libraries in Ireland and England Part 1

12 Aug

Linen Hall Library Belfast

I’ve only been back at work since Monday and already my mind is overwhelmed with the end of summer reading club, the compilation of summer statistics, and the organizing of activities and programming for Fall 2010. My memories from my vacation to Ireland and England are unfourtunately quickly fading fast into the back of my mind. I did however really want to share the geekier librarian moments of trip. Luckily I was travelling with a fellow enthusiast for libraries as tourist destinations and so in total we visited 5 libraries during our 9 day trip. Since I enjoyed these visits so much I’ve decided to write a post about each library we visited.

In Belfast, I particularly enjoyed visiting the Linen Hall Library,Belfast’s oldest library (originally known as the Belfast Reading Society) LinenHall Library logoand home to some fairly recurrent paranormal active. When we were there we actually saw the Paranormal Ulster’s team working in a library meeting room (they all had t-shirts on that said “Paranormal Ulster”). This was especially exciting because we had just gone on a Haunted Ghost Tour of Belfast the night before!

The Linen Hall library is a subscription library that has an impressive collection with many new releases but also has definitely succeeded in preserving its historic caché. The Troubled Images exhibit displayed in the new section to the library was extremely educational and I can imagine quite controversial since it presents political “propaganda” posters from Northern Ireland’s recent violent past.  When talking with our Irish hosts, I assumed their usage of the term “the troubles” was their own euphemism for the violence in Northern Ireland but it seems to be the official term. I found the most interesting poster to be an image of a soccer ball with the slogan “Does it Matter which Foot you Kick with?”. This slogan uses a typical Ulster idiom that refers to the myth that while farming Catholics dig with their left foot and Protestants dig with their right foot. Therefore the idiom to ‘dig with the other foot’ means is to be of the other religion. Likewise in soccer, someone of the opposite religion becomes one who ‘kicks with the other foot”. This poster was used in 1996 by the Community Relations Council to encourage cross-religion relations. I thought that this exhibit was well done and I found the brochure with explanations of the context of the posters to be especially helpful. There was also a prominent display in this area on U.K. author Joan Lingard, who wrote the Kevin and Sadie series about star-crossed lovers, a Catholic and Protestant teenage couple during the Troubles. These books have been reprinted several times so I am hopeful that I will be able get my hands on a copy in North America to read more about the Troubles from a fictional perspective.

What can I say? I love learning new things even when I am on vacation.

The prominence given to history at the Linen Hall Library has got me thinking about how the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library could incorporate more its rich Acadian history in the form of displays or exhibits.

Stay tuned to my next post I will write about the Belfast Central Library.

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