Although the Town of Merrimack had its first social library in 1798 and another one around 1850, the public library did not become a reality until March 1892. During the previous year, the NH state legislature passed a law designed to encourage towns that didn't already have a public library to establish one. This encouragement came in the form of $100 worth of books donated to those towns that established a public library under the "simple and reasonable provisions of the law". In a letter to Merrimack's Board of Selectmen, the NH Board of Library Commissioners wrote "A free public library is a good business investment for any town. Experience shows that the amount expended for it will be returned many fold, not alone in the intellectual and moral stimulus to the people, but also in material prosperity and the increased value of property."
At the 1892 Town Meeting, Merrimack voters elected to accept the offer of books from the State. They also voted to purchase more books worth a sum of $25 and elected the first Library Trustees - Rev. E.A. Keep, Henry A. Harris, and Dr. Warren W. Pillsbury, Chairman. Through the generosity of James B. Hoitt and Dr. George C. Hoitt, the new library received 88 volumes donated from the Charles T. Cotton Library at Thornton's Ferry along with 33 volumes donated from other sources. The new public library opened on January 1, 1893 in Dr. Pillsbury's home. By March the library owned 283 volumes, had issued 64 library cards and had loaned 186 books.
Dr. Pillsbury briefly served as the first librarian. By mid-1893 Miss Emma Cross was appointed as librarian, a position she filled for 39 years. In its early years, the library had many homes. It was first located in the home of Dr. Pillsbury, then moved to the home of Dr. Davis, and later moved into the front room of Miss Emma Cross' home. In 1907 the library and its 3,000 volumes were moved to rented quarters in Ayers' Store.
In 1918, Mrs. Mabel Lucretia Haseltine and Mrs. Bertha Louise Gordon offered to build a library for the town in memory of their parents, Levi Franklin Lowell and Hannah Burnham Lowell. First the building occupying the lot to be used was moved across the street. (This first floor of this building now houses a mattress/futon store.) On March 6, 1925 this first library building in Merrimack was dedicated.
During the next fifty years, the library and community continued to grow. Spurred on by the rapid growth of the town during the late 1960's and 1970's, the Board of Trustees presented plans for an addition to the library to the voters at the 1974 town meeting. Although these plans were defeated several times, the voters at the 1977 town meeting voted to expand the library building.
In July of 1979 the newly renovated and expanded Merrimack Public Library opened its doors. This expansion increased the size of the library from 2,800 to 12,664 square feet. Credit for this expansion goes not only to Kendall Wiggin, Library Director at the time, and the Trustees, but also to the Friends of the Library and their Chairman for many years, Louise Klumpp. The lower level of the addition housed a colorful Children's Library, a Children's Craft Room and a community meeting room. The main level of the addition housed the fiction and non-fiction collections. A large room in part of the original building was designated The Lowell Room and housed the library's collection of rare New Hampshire books, town histories, local archives and archives and artifacts of the Merrimack Historical Society.
The graph to the right shows the story of the next 20 years. From 1980 to 2000 Merrimack's population grew from 15,406 to 25,119. The library's collection grew from 27,262 items to 85,326 items and circulation of those items went from 111,199 to 213,913!
Highlights along the way include
1981 - With help from a grant the library acquires "video recording and playback equipment" and expects it will enhance programming efforts.
1982 - With a matching grant from Digital Corp. the library acquires a word processor to use in tracking overdues items and generating overdue notices.
1983 - An access road to Church Street is added off the library parking lot.
1984 - As a service to patrons the library acquires a photocopy machine that can make high quality copies at a cost of $.10/copy.
1985 - Videotapes are first added to the collection.
1986 - A theft detection system to protect library materials is installed.
1988 - Saturday morning hours during the months of July and August and added.
1989 - The Library Board of Trustees increases from 3 to 5 members.
1990 - The library converts the card catalog to an automated system.
1991 - To accomodate the growing collection, the Lowell Room is converted from a meeting room to book stacks.
1993 - The library acquires storage space in the basement of the Adult Community Center to keep "less frequently used materials". This is described as a "stopgap measure for our serious space crisis."
1994 - Voters approve funding for Sunday hours from mid-September through mid-June. The first Compact Discs are added to the library's collection.
1995 - Merrimack Public Library becomes the first public library in NH to offer internet access to the public. The Trustees convene a Building Committee with membership from a cross-section of community leaders and activists. |
Read a timeline of the new library campaign.
1996 - The MPL Development Fund is created. The purpose of this non-profit organization is to raise money for equipment and furnishings for the new library In September the first Cardboard Boat Races are held with proceeds benefitting a new library.
1997 - CD Roms are added to the collection. The library establishes its own website www.merrimack.lib.nh.us. GMILCS introduces the Common Borrower Card program, where member libraries honor the library cards from other member libraries.
1998 - To accomodate for lack of space, the craft room in the lower level is converted to office space.
2000 - The library closes for a week in June for several refurbishing projects including new carpet, fresh paint, and replaced ceiling tiles.
2001 - DVDs are added to the collection. The Merrimack Public Library is named "Public Library of the Year" by the NH Library Trustees' Association.
2002 - The library holds a Poetry Contest in April and it becomes an annual event.
2005 - The library installs wireless internet access and holds its first "One Book, One Town" during October, featuring A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.
Dr. Warren W. Pillsbury
View of the original building from the north
Postcard image of the library