"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." - NH Board of Library Comissioners (in a letter to Merrimack's Board of Selectmen)
Merrimack had its first social library in 1798, and another one around 1850, but the public library did not become a reality until much later. In 1891, 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". Almost 40 years after the second social library was created, in March 1892 at the Town Meeting, Merrimack voters elected to accept the offer of books from the State, and to purchase more books worth a sum of $25. They also elected the first Library Trustees: Rev. E.A. Keep, Henry A. Harris, and Dr. Warren W. Pillsbury, Chairman.The new public library opened on January 1, 1893 in Dr. Pillsbury's home. 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. By March, the library owned 283 volumes, had issued 64 library cards and had loaned 186 books.
Dr. W.W. 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, followed by 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.
Initially, the library building was located across the street (this building is now an apartment house, owned by the Connell Family). However, 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. On March 6, 1925, the first library building in Merrimack was dedicated.
During the next 50 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 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 and craft room, as well as a community meeting room. The main level of the addition housed the fiction and non-fiction collections, while a large room in part of the original building was designated The Lowell Room, which housed the library's collection of rare NH books, town histories, local archives and artifacts of the Historical Society.
The timeline below shows the story for the next 30 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:
- 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.
- 1990 - The library converts the card catalog to an automated system.
- 1991 - To accommodate 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" as a "stopgap measure for our serious space crisis."
- 1994 - The first music CDs 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.
- 1997 - The library establishes its own website. GMILCS introduces the Common Borrower Card program, where member libraries honor the library cards from other member libraries.
- 1998 - To accommodate for lack of space, the craft room in the lower level is converted to office space.
- 2001 - DVDs are added to the collection. The Merrimack Public Library is named "Public Library of the Year" by the NH Library Trustees' Association.
- 2005 - Wireless internet access installed; First "One Book, One Town" book club, featuring A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.
- 2014 - Became the first public library in New Hampshire to house a working seismograph and join an international network of seismic monitoring centers.
- 2015 - Dedicated Teen Room is created