The oldest and first tax supported library in the United States is in Peterborough, New Hampshire and dates from 1842. The newest public library in the state was established in Madbury, New Hampshire in 2000, clearly showing that the imminent death of the public library in New Hampshire is greatly exaggerated. Each of the public libraries in our 234 communities is independent. Library trustees total over 1,200. The range of services varies widely based primarily on the resources available to the library. The overwhelming majority of funds for public libraries come from the town or city. State aid to local libraries translates into statewide services and competitive grants using LSTA funds administered by the New Hampshire State Library.
The New Hampshire State Library is key to much of the success of the efforts of libraries in the state. In a very real sense, the State Library plays a vital leadership role in providing library services for citizens of New Hampshire. In preparation for the development of this plan, the State Library conducted four focus groups throughout the state during 2001. The goal of the focus groups was to study the needs of its users and of library services that would address those needs. Issues were discussed involving all types of libraries. In 2002 the State Library completed an evaluation of LSTA usage in New Hampshire for the years 1997-2002. The New Hampshire State Library's evaluation of its Five-Year Plan revealed that statewide LSTA initiatives have had great impact. As a result of the needs identified in its strategic planning activities in 2000 and the findings of the evaluation of its first Five-Year Plan in 2001, the State Library has identified six broad "strategic directions" as a foundation to guide its work. These strategies form the basis of three overarching goals, which when realized will enhance library and information services benefits to all New Hampshire libraries. This strategy remains consistent with the goals of the federal Library Services and Technology Act and builds on a long and esteemed tradition of excellence and dedicated service to people in New Hampshire.
In striving to respond to the diverse needs of new generation of library users, the State Library must provide more assistance to libraries in the areas of:
1. Access, training and education in new technologies
2. Improvements to the Statewide Interlibrary Loan network supported by automation and statewide delivery service
3. Preservation of New Hampshire's cultural and historic heritage
4. Improve literacy through public libraries with the promotion and advocacy of early childhood literacy
5. Greater access to library services for people who have difficulty using a library and who live in rural communities.
6. Stimulating innovation and adding value to local library services