Surprising Development Of Our Public Library

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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

"The Hampton Union"

Thursday, February 6, 1958

For many years our town's public library was a sort of municipal stepchild, poorly nurtured and woefully neglected. Now, all that has changed, but no such change as actually has taken place was even hoped for or dreamed of when at the Town Meeting of eleven months ago it was voted to enlarge the Lane Memorial Library.

Beyond Expectations

For that purpose $25,000 was then appropriated, to be added to a generous gift of $10,000 from the Lane family. The main idea was to make more floor space available. But the aggregate results were way beyond this -- far beyond what the voting citizens contemplated and even beyond the most optimistic dreams of the committee which was appointed to supervise the enlargement.

Renovations Needed

What are these aggregate results simply stated? In the first place it was ascertained by three architects who examined the building at the request of the committee that the structure, by reason of neglect, was very badly in need of basic repairs and renovations. It seemed impractical to add a new and modern wing to a public building in such poor condition.

Furnishings Needed Also

Then again the furnishings and equipment were so obsolete that they needed replacement and they most certainly would be incongruous in comparison with the modern furnishings of the new wing. So when the facts were presented to a special Town Meeting, held last August 21, an additional $15,000 was appropriated, thus making possible both renovations and new furnishings and equipment for the whole institution.

Widen Library Program

When the new library began to take shape and it daily became more apparent that here was a building that might truly become a real center of interest for the community, the library trustees began to consider methods and means of widening the scope of library uses and activities. Obviously an increased appropriation would be necessary to take care of added overhead costs incurred by a large building and by keeping the library open longer than the customary three days each week.

Per Capita Appropriation

Throughout the United States the average amount appropriated by municipalities for their public libraries is $3.00 per capita. If Hampton were to appropriate only the average amount, based on our present population of 5,250 (carefully estimated) it would come to $15,750. However, by cutting corners and practicing strict economy, the trustees estimated that they could get along next year with $9,800 which our selectmen promptly reduced to $9,500. This is $1.80 per capita or $1.20 under the national average.

Favorably Impressed

When the Lane Memorial Library was opened on Sunday afternoon, January 5, [1958] for a brief ceremony of rededication and for public inspection, the two hundred citizens who attended were most favorably impressed with all the changes which have been made. Other hundreds who have used the Library facilities since then have likewise been immensely pleased with the new and modern features. And folks who have been aware of how badly books and papers have been mildewed and otherwise harmed by dampness, are delighted and amazed that in spite of the recent deluge the library has remained as dry as the proverbial bone.


That people greatly appreciate their new library has been evidenced to the trustees in two very substantial ways: first, there has been a marked increase in the number of books taken out and in the use of other basic library facilities and second, the desire of citizens to help as indicated by the organization on last Sunday of the group called "Friends of the Hampton Public Library."

New Organization

The purpose of this new organization is to cooperate with the trustees in making the Library truly a community cultural center, to increase the use of basic library facilities and to arrange all types of cultural exhibitions and programs -- exhibitions, for instance, such as the showing of Arthur Johnson's paintings which proved such a popular attraction in January and the present exhibition of hooked rugs.

Results Summarized

Now it is time to summarize the results which we stated at the beginning were not even imagined when the original appropriation for enlarging the library was made: (1) complete renovation of old building, (2) new furnishings and equipment throughout, (3) increased library appropriation, (4) library opened longer hours each week, perhaps daily, (5) formation of a volunteer citizens group (Friends of the Hampton Public Library) to (A) increase use of library facilities, (B) to arrange cultural exhibits and (C) be responsible for suitable programs.

Changed Status

Thus, in the short space of eleven months, our town's public library has developed from the lowly standing of a municipal stepchild to the higher status of a young man who may become a favorite son. Aside from Wheaton Lane, who added necessary incentive with a $10,000 gift in behalf of his family, the success of the library project is due to community interest and team play.

Worked Diligently

The building committee which included the library trustees and the trustees as a separate group, have worked diligently to provide Hampton with a modern library building, suitably equipped with all necessary facilities. In the important matter of planning, constructing, effecting necessary renovations and purchasing equipment -- the building committee was most fortunate in securing able collaborators.

Architect and Building

Mr. Horace Bradt of Exeter planned and supervised construction and renovations as the committee's architect with great professional skill and competence. Moreover, he proved a friendly advisor with a personal interest in his work. The builder, Mr. James Peirce, head of the Peirce Construction Company of Stratham, indicated his knowledge of construction even before he was awarded the contract with a bid of $41,055.00 which was $26,407.49 under the highest bidder. Upon taking charge of the project he kept the work moving swiftly until it was concluded.

Sub Contractors

Sub-contractors included the local firm of Palmer and Sicard who installed heating and plumbing; Leo W. DesRoches of Exeter, all electrical work; Robert D. Forsythe and Son, Haverhill, roofing; DeMers Plate Glass Co., Haverhill, glass work; Dillaby Fireproofing Co., Boston, acoustical ceilings, Portsmouth Lino-Mart Company of Portsmouth, floors and Harriet Nealand, interior decoration consultant, who is associated with Lafayette Wayside Furniture, Inc., Hampton Falls, curtains and draperies.

Rags To Riches

From rags to comparative riches in the short space of eleven months is the Horatio Alger story of our town's public library. It was enlarged and renovated because it was believed that in our rapidly growing community a real demand exists for a modern library and library program. It is hoped that every citizen will show his personal interest by becoming a "Friend of the Hampton Public Library," by using its facilities and by telling his friends and neighbors about the institution.
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