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Cook Memorial Library keeps up with changing times

Beautiful Victorian library in Tamworth Village 'totally rocks'

The Cook Memorial Library is located in the center of Tamworth Village. (click for larger version)
March 04, 2010
Over the years, Tamworth residents have supported public repositories of the printed word, providing year-round and seasonal residents alike with easy and free access to the books that have informed and delighted the reading public. In 1891, nearly 100 years after Tamworth saw the benefit of a library, the state of New Hampshire came on board with the Free Library Act, authorizing incentives to towns for establishing libraries. Once again, Tamworth was on the forefront.

"There is not a town on the face of the earth, of the same number of inhabitants (1000), no larger inventory of property ($250,000) that can show such a record for intelligence and morals," Larkin Mason said in 1895 in his dedication speech for the new library, a lovely Victorian building with stained glass windows and a clock tower. And so began the story of the Cook Memorial Library, which still welcomes visitors at the center of Tamworth Village. Though twice renovated, its historic Victorian portion is artfully preserved.

The good people of Tamworth, with the expertise of the library staff, remain on the cutting edge. In this day and age, when words and images zip around the world in nanoseconds, the Cook Library not only provides its hundreds of patrons every year with books and periodicals in the traditional printed paper form, but also has eight public access computers, with unsecured wireless access both inside and out. This wireless is available outside the building 24/7, because you never know when that high school student might suddenly discover he has a term paper due in the morning.

Not content to stop there, the Cook Memorial Library staff has set up several of those computers with Skype so that patrons who have friends and relatives abroad for work, education, military service or travel, can hear and see their loved ones for free. Knowing that not everyone is completely computer-literate, the staff is more than happy to help patrons with their technology needs and questions. Never will you hear, "I can't help you with that," even if the answer to your question requires further inquiry.

As they say on those TV infomercials, "Wait! There's more!"

The library lends MP3 players for downloading music and audios, a DVD player for travel, a telescope, three Kill-o-Watt meters (for testing household energy consumption), and an LCD Projector (for local community organizations.) Besides procuring 100-150 monthly interlibrary loans each month, the library even lends out Netflix DVDs, all this on top of the 22,000 books, audios and movies in the collection.

Last year, almost a thousand patrons checked out materials. Many more came in for computers, programming, and meetings, both formal and informal. More than 100 programs for all ages are presented each year, and are well attended (2,033 attendees in 2009). Music, crafts, book discussions, puppet shows, storytellers, art classes and shows are a few of the many diverse programs offered to the community.

The library has three comfortable meeting rooms available for community meetings and often all three are in use at the same time. In 2009, 131 meetings with 1,091 in attendance were held.

"This library totally rocks. I feel as though we are so lucky to have a library/librarians that so totally encourage and enhance community education and well-being," wrote one teen patron on a survey card, a testament to the library's ability to be totally relevant to yet another generation of Tamworth residents. Parson Hidden would be proud. s

Editor's note: The above article was originally written by librarian Jay Rancourt and was then lightly edited and 're-arranged' by Ear writer Sara Young-Knox.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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