Celebrating New Hampshire’s State Library

2017 is the 300th anniversary of the nation’s first such institution


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New Hampshire is known for being first for many things: we hold the first-in-the-nation primary, we ratified the first state constitution, founded the first public library in the United States and more. But you might not know that we also were the first to have a State Library.

On Jan. 25, 1717, in Portsmouth, the 27th General Assembly enacted a law — almost 60 years before there even was a United States — that makes it clear that the members of the provincial government knew that libraries are vital places of information and need to be a cornerstone of how we go about our business.

The law, which set aside “law books” for elected officials, were the beginnings of the State Library, and they began a long history of libraries in New Hampshire communities.

Three hundred years after it was founded, the State Library continues to serve the people of the New Hampshire by providing services that keep the libraries in our communities strong.

The State Library’s professional development staff offers workshops for librarians that keep them up to speed on the most cutting-edge aspects of library science, thereby allowing them to deliver the very best library services to their patrons. We serve as a central point of delivery for both public and school libraries, helping them to share resources and strengthen their purchasing power. We also are a working library with patrons who come from across the state and the country to use our collection of more than 600,000 items, including books about New Hampshire, books by New Hampshire authors and illustrators, newspaper archives, genealogy documents, government documents and library science materials. 

Throughout 2017, we’ll be celebrating the State Library’s 300th anniversary as well as New Hampshire’s strong library tradition. 

Look for articles in newspapers, postings to our Facebook and Twitter accounts (look for #NHSL300) and a special section on our website, nh.gov/nhsl.

We encourage you to play your part, too. You’re welcome to visit us here at 20 Park St. in Concord, right across from the State House, and be sure to take advantage of the many services that your public library has to offer. You’ll be in good company when you do. 

Michael York is acting commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources.

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