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Center Harbor to celebrate the Nichols Library's 100th anniversary

June 23, 2010
CENTER HARBOR — One hundred years after its dedication, the James E. Nichols Memorial Library still provides residents of Center Harbor and neighboring communities with books and services.

On Saturday, June 26, the town will gather to celebrate the library's 100th anniversary from its initial 60-book catalogue to its reported circulation of 15,162 books and media items at the end of 2009.

Library Director Jon Kinnaman has done extensive research on the library's history over the past year. The results of that research have been published in a book titled "A Viable Service, a Centennial History of the James E. Nichols Memorial Library Center Harbor New Hampshire, 1910-2010."

"I started doing research maybe a year ago just to get an idea of what things were on record," Kinnaman said.

Kinnaman said he found the documents in the old walk-in vault in what was originally the selectmen's meeting room. Kinnaman said one of the most interesting finds was the initial book catalogue created by the Sons of Temperance that contained 60 books that were part of the original library collection.

"I thought it was just a check-out book myself," he said. "Then I was looking through for another fact, I opened the front page and went 'Whoa.' Naturally it's a wonder for anyone that has an interest in old books and historical materials to discover something like that."

Several of the historical documents are now on display at the library.

The library initially started as part of an initiative by the Sons of Temperance in the late 1800's to have a library in town. Initially books were available through the Center Harbor Library Association, but only to paying members of the Association.

Kinnaman said there was no money available to build a library so the group sought donations. Local man Smith Emery approached James E. Nichols about possibly funding a library in Center Harbor.

Born in Meredith, Nichols grew up in Center Harbor and achieved considerable business success in Boston. After being approached, Nichols gave his full support for the project. He paid for the land and construction and had endowments to fund the library's maintenance. The Library Association then donated the books in its collection to help start the town library.

The library was officially dedicated on June 18, 1910.

Kinnaman said circulation significantly decreased in the 1930s and through World War II but started to rise in the 1960s. The energy crisis and economic downturn in the early 1980s resulted in the selectmen's decision to have the library open only two days a week. As a result circulation significantly decreased. In 1992 the library was open for more days and circulation increased again.

The library is now open six days a week, and Kinnaman said circulation is strong.

"We have an enthusiastic group of borrowers that not only include people from Center Harbor but people from Meredith," Kinnaman said.

He said it is also a convenient library for Moultonboro residents who live by the town line.

"I know residents from other communities who say that we're their library of choice," Kinnaman said. "I think the building attracts people. It's a quaint old turn-of-the-century feeling that appeals to people. I think we do a great job of picking up outside."

Today, the library has an abundant collection of current releases as well as books released within the last 30 years along with DVDs and other media. According to the 2009 Town Report,m the James E, Nichols Library had a circulation of 15,162 items, including adult and youth titles, audio-visual media, inter-library loans, and other media. The library had 2,428 service interactions in 2009 including reference/book advisory, computer and technical help, book deliveries, computer usage, and Wifi access.

Kinnaman said the library is looking to keep up with technology. The library was online before many others were and was one of the first in the area to have Wifi, which is accessible to anyone in and around the building.

Additionally, Kinnaman said the building is in good shape. With the sound structure of the library building and the library's ability to keep updated, Kinnaman said the library's future looks strong.

The library will celebrate its centennial on June 26. Kinnaman said the celebration was originally planned for June 19 for the official 100th anniversary, though that date was during Bike Week and the celebration was moved up.

Kinnaman said the Library Trustees have been "tremendously supportive" by helping with research and setting money aside at budget season for the celebration. He said the Board of Selectmen has also been of great support.

"A Viable Service" was published through Elan Publishing in Moultonboro. The book contains a history of the library as well as photos and copies of documents from the period. The book will be officially released at the centennial celebration.

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