The Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge is the official title of the institution more commonly known as the Linen Hall Library. It is the oldest library in Ireland. It developed from the Belfast Reading Society which was founded in 1788. The Library has always enjoyed a central role in the literary and cultural life of the city. The Linen Hall Library provides a free public reference service, but continues to run a subscription library for the benefit of its members. It is located in the centre of Belfast and is a leading centre for Irish and local studies in the North of Ireland, and its holdings range from its comprehensive holdings of early Belfast & Ulster printed books to the 250,000 items in the Northern Ireland Political Collection, the definitive archive of the recent troubles. Completion of a major extension in September 2000 as part of a £3.4 Million Millennium Development has put it in an even better position to serve members and visitors alike. The core part of the Autographed Collection was donated to the Linen Hall Library by William McCready. William McCready, of Whiteabbey, County Antrim worked as a post office official. Though he wasn't a wealthy man he devoted a large portion of his income to the purchase of books. He amassed a large collection of extraordinary interest and value. Mr McCready's interests lay in contemporary literature and he collected works by such authos as Shaw, Yeats, Forrest Reid and De La Mare - many of which are autographed. William Mr McCready died suddenly in February 1982.