Saturday, August 9, 2014

278. Peterborough, New Hampshire

The Peterborough Town Library is famous for being the first publicly supported library in the U. S. I was given a booklet, "History of the Peterborough Town Library: America's first publicly supported library." From that booklet I learned that its roots go back to the 1790s, a "Juvenile Library" was available in a private home in 1828, and the Peterborough Library Company was formed in 1833. Shares in the library were $2.00, yearly dues 50 cents, and lifetime membership $6.00. A room upstairs in the older part of the building (see the chimney and upper windows in the pictures below) holds evidence of this early history, including a case with the actual first 100 books acquired! Just for fun, see if you can guess the title of the very first book added to the collection; the answer is at the end, below the pictures.

In current times you enter via the ramp or stairs visible in the first picture below. The first thing I saw on entering was a display of new books, showing where the current focus lies. (I say that because often the first thing I see upon entering a library these days is AV media of various sorts, not books!) There certainly is media, however, and a series of empty spinners labeled Videos, plus a single spinner holding VHS tapes, suggests that this format is being phased out.

The "living room" browsing area is so attractive, I got permission to share it with you; see the third picture below. The beauty continues in the collection of art that may be borrowed, and a display of photographs by Chuck Bruce. I especially like the Arches NP pictures and the squirrels.

The fiction section suggests the need for more shelves or a bit of the dreaded "weeding," as many shelves had books laid horizontally across the shelved books, enough that it did not seem accidental.

The children's area was "guarded" by a very large rat in a lab coat, signaling this year's science-themed summer reading program. Many papers displayed roller coasters with cars drawn on by kids to document the number of books read. There are more than a dozen "floor chairs"--backrests--for kids to use. I like the sign that tells us "E Books are Picture Books." I know of some places where these are called "Everyone" books. I tend to like anything that gets away from the idea that these books are "Easy," as many of them are not.

One more feature from the children's area is a looonnng paper chain that loops back and forth overhead. I learned that adding links to the chairn is one more way for kids to document the number of books read this summer. A whole lot of reading has been done by the kids of Peterborough!

I spotted some "Discover History" backpacks provided (or at least sponsored) by the Peterborough History Society. Each of these contains (the sign says) three books, puzzles, and a guide to a walking tour. This is a great addition to the library.

Finally, I visited the older part of the building. I mentioned the upper room with the historical materials. The lower, or main, level has non-fiction, an enormous fireplace, and a large antique wall clock. Tucked under the stairs is the reference librarian's desk. Library circulation staff insisted that I should meet the reference librarian, Brian. [I think; I didn't write the name down, so please correct me if I'm wrong.) He was very gracious and obviously pleased to share the history of the library. He gave me the booklet I mentioned above, and even walked outside with me to show me the recent painting on the ceiling of the old entrance; see the last picture, below).

I would certainly suggest a visit to Peterborough if you have any interest in the history of libraries. If you can't get there in person, you can visit and

[The first book added was: Analysis of the Epistle of St. Paul by John Locke.]


  1. This sound like a fabulous library! I wish I had visited it last time I spent time with a friend who lives in Peterborough.

  2. It was nice to have you here, Ellen.


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