NHLA History

The New Hampshire Library Association (NHLA) is the oldest state library association in the United States, founded in 1889 by a group of 49 library trustees and one librarian. New Hampshire is also home to the first state library (1717) and the first free public library supported by municipal taxation (Peterborough, 1833).

The first president of NHLA, Nathan Parker Hunt (Manchester City Librarian) was elected in 1891. At that time, NHLA membership included approximately 30 individuals. The motto of the organization was “…to promote the efficiency of libraries and to cultivate fellowship among its members.” The Association quickly became immersed in activities associated with library advocacy, librarian professional development, and the need to foster collaborations locally, state-wide, and nationally for the benefit of individual New Hampshire communities. For example, the first major discussion of interlibrary loan occurred at the 1897 annual meeting, and the formation of local library co-operatives to provide professional support began around that same time.

NHLA voted to approve the formation of the New England Library Association in 1939, and officially became a state chapter of the American Library Association in 1941. During that same time period, NHLA studied the concept of statewide library services being provided by the NH State Library. A union list of adult non-fiction titles was created, and eventually evolved into the New Hampshire Automated Information Systems (NHAIS) in 1981 due to the combined efforts of the State Library and NHLA. Today, NHLA membership exceeds 600 individuals, representing all aspects of library support in New Hampshire. NHLA continues to advance the interests of its members through advocacy on library issues and increasing public awareness of library service, as well as supporting the professional development of its members, fostering communication and the exchange of ideas, and promoting participation in the association and its sections.