Wednesday, May 20, 2015

330 New Hampshire State Library

The New Hampshire State Library, founded in 1894, is the oldest state library in the United States. Trying to report on a state library is very different from reporting on a community library. To start with, it serves a very different purpose. Here is the Mission Statement from the library web page:
  • Promote excellence in libraries and library services to all New Hampshire residents;
  • Assist libraries and the people of New Hampshire with rapid access to library and informational resources through the development and coordination of a statewide library/information system;
  • Meet the informational needs of New Hampshire state, county and municipal governments and its libraries;
  • Serve as a resource center for New Hampshire.
Those are not "missions" that are visible to a visitor. Instead, I saw the surface: marble floors, many fireplaces, old books, a very neat vertical filing system for microfilm, patrons coming and going to use study tables. There are many historical books, of course, and materials for genealogical research. A poster on The Care and Handling Guidelines from the Vermont Historical Records Advisory Board was clear, thorough, and not condescending, and at the same time it looks attractive. I would suggest it for any library that maintains historical documents. At the same time, there are racks of literature about the role of parents in early literacy and education.

Both floors I saw have ceilings high enough to accommodate a mezzanine level of stacks. A few special items that caught my eye were an original brick from Independence Hall, a copy of the State Seal perhaps 8 feet in diameter that looked as if it might sometimes be used for an outdoor display or parade float; and a relief map of New Hampshire that must be close to 20 feet tall. A very large card catalog bears a sign that it was "closed" in 1990; since then the catalog has been computer-based.

Walls, floors, and ceilings are elaborate and classical. On the stairs to the second floor, the landings are of tile that reminds me of pictures I have seen of Pompeii.

There is a children's area with historical books and children's books with a New Hampshire connection, as well as winners of various State book awards. I did not see this area, but if I come back I'll be sure to allow time and make the needed arrangements.

The staff persons I spoke to were pleasant and helpful. If I were a resident of New Hampshire I would be looking for reasons to come here, just to sit at the venerable tables and feel a part of the on-going history of the state.

More information about the library is available at and there is a Facebook page at

5/20/2015  car and walking, with Mary


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Sorry about the "verification" step; I added it after a rash of spammish comments.