Belfast Central Library was opened in October 1888 by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquis of Londonderry. The building was designed by the eminent architect W. H. Lynn. The Newsroon (newspaper reading room) was the first part of the Library to be opened to the public, this was followed a month later by the opening of the Lending Library. The Reference Library was stocked and opened to the public in late 1889.Sir James Henderson donated 3,000 volumes to the Reference Library and a further 8,000 were selected with advice from the professors of Queen’s College (Queen’s University Belfast). A printed catalogue of the Library appeared in 1896. Belfast Central Library was granted United Nations depository status in 1956 and HMSO depository status in 1961.Today the stock in Central Library exceeds one million items and includes books, maps, newspapers, patents, sound recordings and government and agency publications. Much of the material in the various collections is listed on computer, while access to other sources is provided by CD Rom facilities and on-line access to more than 400 databases worldwide.
The Northern Ireland Library Authority (Libraries NI) was established in April 2009 as a result of the Review of Public Administration. Libraries NI has the statutory responsibility for the provision of public library services in Northern Ireland. Its functions are laid down in the Libraries Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. It is a Non Departmental Public Body which reports to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The Board of the Authority consists of a Chairperson and 18 Members, 11 of whom are Councillors, within the meaning of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972. All Board Members are appointed by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The executive business of the Board is carried out by a team of officers under the leadership of the Chief Executive. The Executive Team is organised into three strategic units, each being led by a member of the Senior Management Team.