October 16, 2009
Library celebrates 100 years

GOFFSTOWN - The Goffstown Public Library, a pretty brick building that has been right at the center of Goffstown’s village – literally and figuratively – has stood there for 100 years. But those who love it say it remains just as important today as it did when the townspeople banded together and voted to spend $14,000 to erect it.

“Libraries are definitely not a book business. It’s a people place,” Jessica Stevens, a library assistant, said.

The library has been a people place longer than 100 years, Dianne Hathway, director of the library, said. Before the building ever stood there, collections of books moved throughout the town, from house to house, as a free library. 

In 1888, a Goffstown resident named Lucy Rogers donated 150 books to the town to create a centralized library, which was in the old town hall building. In 1907, Frank Parker donated the land where the library stands now. And in March of 1908, the town voted at their annual meeting to borrow $14,000 to build the library. 

“I think nowadays we forget was a treasure books were in the old days,” Hathaway said. “Some people came with them to the new world – their one book.”

The library culminated a celebration of the building’s 100 year birthday last Saturday, with a rededication of the library complete with a birthday cake from Michelle’s Gourmet Pastry, and apple cider. Employees read the original dedication from 1909.

Hathaway said the building was the first of its kind in the area, a big brick structure in the midst of clapboard and wooden buildings.

“I can’t imagine what people driving through – or riding through on their horse and buggy – thought when they saw this majestic building,” she said.

The library has inspired reverence from those who know it well for years. Local poet Moses Gage Shirley wrote a poem, “Our Library,” about it. Mary Sullivan, a descendent of his, read it at the rededication.

"Our library with all its treasures,/To the future is handed down,/What better gift could be given,/To the youth of the growing town?" one stanza of the poem reads.

The building was originally built as a memorial library – as a sign out front says – and inside, large marble slabs bear the names of soldiers from New Hampshire killed as long ago as the “War of Rebellion.” Their names were lettered by hand in gold leaf. That was one of the characteristics that earned the library building a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, where it was listed in the 1990s.

In the age of Google and e-books, Hathaway said the library is doing just fine.

“I think that [people] still depend on the library…We’re busier than ever,” she said. “We have not lost business because of the Web.”

In fact, many people come to the library to use the Internet, she said. But libraries are more than just buildings full of books and computers: they are a place to gather, the centers of towns, she said.

“We provide something no else can,” Hathaway said. “It belongs to the community. We’re just the caretakers of it now.”




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