300TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW
HAMPSHIRE STATE LIBRARY
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Madam President, New Hampshire takes pride in its many firsts among the States, including our first in the Nation Presidential primary. This year, Granite Staters have been celebrating the 300th anniversary of the New Hampshire State Library, the first State library in America. It all began in Portsmouth on January 25, 1717, when the 27th General Assembly directed ‘‘ye Law books be distributed among ye severall towns of this Province in proportion according to their last Prov. tax, except two books which shall be for ye use of ye Govr & Councile and house of representatives.’’ Three centuries later, the original books are surrounded by a modern collection of more than 600,000 items, housed across from the State house in Concord. The State Library is one of our most handsome public buildings, built in 1896 of New Hampshire granite, American steel, and Italian marble.
We Granite Staters love our libraries, and we have led the Nation in making books available to all citizens. As State librarian Michael York told New Hampshire Public Radio: ‘‘We often use the term ‘anchor institutions.’ There are 234 communities in New Hampshire and there are 234 public libraries. Nobody else can make that claim. Not McDonald’s, not 7–11, not Dunkin’ Donuts.’’
In 1833, Peterborough established the first tax-supported public library in the
world, a central collection of books owned by the people and free to all residents of the town. In the early 1800s, so-called social or parlor libraries sprang up across our State—places where dues-paying members came together to share books. A century later, wealthy philanthropists built free public
libraries all across our State, including nine impressive Carnegie libraries.
Phillips Exeter Academy, a private school in Exeter, NH, is home to the largest secondary school library in the world. Today every city and town in New Hampshire has a public library, and a key mission of the State library is to provide professional development for local librarians to keep them abreast of the latest developments in library science and technologies.
The State library serves as a centralized location for State and government documents, and its collection specializes in New Hampshire newspapers, authors, and books on New Hampshire history and culture. It includes an archive of Granite State political history, including posters, buttons, and bumper stickers from New Hampshire Presidential primaries dating back to 1952. One of its most prized possessions is a 20-foot, floor-to-ceiling ‘‘Hitchcock map’’ of New Hampshire, with the State’s mountains, valleys, and lakes carved in relief by Dartmouth College— students in 1877.
During my years as Governor, I had the daily pleasure of looking out on our beautiful State library from my office windows in the State capitol. Both the building and its collection are among our State’s most prized cultural treasures. I am grateful to State librarian Michael York and his professional staff for their dedicated service to our State and for their loving stewardship of this special building. I join with people across the Granite State in celebrating the first 300 years.