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Our History, Historical Highlights & Past Directors

On April 30, 1892, the first library building in the Town of Amherst was dedicated. Under the leadership of Rev. Josiah G. Davis, D.O., $2800 was raised by voluntary subscriptions for the construction project. The site chosen for the new library "was Judge Parker's garden, maintained by this distinguished gentleman with rare fruits and flowers, and one of the most attractive spots on the Plain."

Reverend Davis's efforts were prompted by the Amherst Library Association's burgeoning book collection. The collection which was begun in 1859 with 600 volumes had grown to 2000 volumes and could no longer fit into the room in the town hall given to the Association by the selectmen. 

The Boston firm of Means and Gilbert drew up plans for the library building, and proceeded rapidly. The building which was dedicated in 1892 was one story high measuring 44 by 22 feet with a 30 by 10 foot annex. Because the healthy sum of $2800 was available for construction, handsome and sturdy local granite was used for the exterior. The metal roof sloped down over the large windows.

By 1907 the library had outgrown the 1892 building. Mr. James W. Towne of East Orange, New Jersey offerred to expand the library if the town would agree to increase the budget for its maintenance by $100 per year. At the 1909 town meeting, citizens accepted the offer, and in 1911 the first renovation of the library was completed. The name of the library was decreed to be none other than the Amherst Town Library. 

The 1911 renovation tripled the available space inside the library and added a great deal of decoration both inside and out. The roof was torn out and raised four feet three inches. Decorative windows were added, and a new red tile roof was installed. The exterior walls were extended eight feet in one direction and sixteen feet in another. The interior was redone in Mexican mahogany with terrazo marble floors and green marble trim. A fireplace of yellow brick bounded in dark mahogany was added. With the added height, a mezzanine was added to one side of the building for stack area. A handsome copper and glass marquee was added over the front entrance. 

At the dedication of the renovated building, Dr. Edward Spalding presented the library with a portrait by Gilbert Stuart of Charles H. Atherton, a prominent lawyer and politician. 

In 1971, the second renovation modernized the library and extended the building to the rear adding a large reading room. The basement was finished into a meeting room which was later turned into the children's library. 

In 1987, the third renovation and addition of the Amherst Town Library was completed. The Boston firm of Stahl Associates designed the new building which was to be in excess of 13,500 square feet in interior space with attention both to modernization and preservation. The east wall was removed and, following patterns of history, the new section was built in Mrs. Hopkins' garden. Mimicking the architecture of the 1911 building a mezzanine was added for stack room. Many architectural features which had been lost behind walls and dropped ceilings in the 1971 renovation were recovered. The building was wired for automation and made completely accessible to handicapped patrons. The cost of the 1987 expansion and renovation was $1,100,000. 

Because the building is protected by a security system and is completely climate controlled, the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Charles Atherton which had been on loan to the Currier Museum for many years was returned to hang over the circulation desk.

— Mary Ann List, 1990

Historical Hightlights

1797 Rev. Daniel Wilkins, the first town minister left his library to the town for the beginning of town library

1859 Amherst Library Association, a voluntary association to establish a collection of useful and miscellaneous books

1871 Library placed in Petit Jury Room of Town Hall

1879 Library became property of town and Board of Trustees was appointed by selectmen

1892 Original building dedicated April 30. Gilbert Stuart painting of Charles H. Atherton given to library at first dedication. Atherton was a resident of Amherst, lawyer, state representative, and New Hampshire Representative in Congress.

1907 Electric lights installed. Operating cost first year, $11.00

1940 Severe scarlet fever epidemic. Library ruled that none of the contaminated books and magazines on loan to families whose homes were quarantined were to be returned, thus suffering the loss of a number of books and periodicals.

1947 First bathroom installed.

1960 First summer reading program for children

1966 Volunteers formed "Friends of the Amherst Library"

Past Library Directors

  • Mrs. E. M. Burnham| 1872-1894
  • Miss E.J. Stearns | 1894-1900
  • Mrs. Alice M. Wyman | 1901-1920
  • Jennie Holbrook | 1920-1930
  • Flora H. Sibley | 1930-1932
  • Phoebe H. Crawford | 1932-1938 
  • Rosalie Norris | 1938-1943
  • Pearl Perry, acting librarian | 1939
  • Miss Margaret Moser | 1938-1943
  • Mrs. Florence P. Addison | 1944-1945 
  • Mrs. Henry Cote | 1946
  • Miss Margaret Moser | 1946-1950
  • Marion Nelson, acting librarian | 1947
  • Marion Nelson | 1950-1965
  • Mrs. Betty Watson | 1969-1985
  • Mary Ann List | 1985-2003
  • Natasha (Casteel) Leonard | 2003-2005
  • Mrs. Amy Lapointe | 2005-Present