Window To The World

Lane Library Is Here For Community

By David Johnson

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 3, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Saturday afternoon at Hampton’s Lane Memorial Library. The weather is warm, well, warm for this year’s March. There is definitely a tangible air of spring in the building, of weekend library trips, and stockpiling of summer reading.

The premises are quiet. But the library has many patrons today. The only audible sounds: the hum of the computers, the “clickety-clack” of fingers on keyboard keys, the gentle leafing of pages. A woman comes to the reference desk to ask Bill Teschek, assistant director and head of technical services, a question about her taxes. Lane has been sponsoring some free tax help for community members looking to ease the migraines of tax season.

Lane Memorial Library is your everyday American library. Almost.

For starters, like most all other libraries these days, Lane is riding the wave of technology, always seeming to play catch-up (who isn’t) but nevertheless capable of offering state-of-the-art services to its patrons. The Internet, for example.

Having the ability for speedy surfing on the Net has represented one of the most effective lures for Lane. Community members, perhaps oppressed by snail-slow modems and sub-par connections, can find solace in the speed of Lane’s computers. The library’s DSL access allows patrons to check e-mail or surf at rocket speed, and has fast become the most popular feature, according to Teschek.

Yet the Internet isn’t just a cute gimmick. It’s also Hampton’s window to the world. The Lane Memorial Library’s Web page, located at www.hampton.lib.nh.us, is one of the most complete and exhaustively researched New Hampshire resources on the Internet, says Teschek.

The pride and joy of Teschek and company, the Web site contains links upon links to thousands and thousands of other internal pages. The site contains a detailed history of the library, guides to the Hampton area, and one of the largest genealogical databases in the state. Exeter Library has an impressive genealogy collection in its reading room, but Lane takes it one step further. Interested parties can access the Web site and track down Hampton residents and their kin from as far back as the 19th century. The site took off in 1998 and is constantly updated.

“There are a lot of libraries with very nice Web sites," says Teschek, “but none have gone into local history like we have.”

Hampton’s first library opened its doors in 1881. Actually, it opened the Town Hall’s doors, where a special room was set aside. It wasn’t until 1910 that a building was erected for the library. A local citizen and wealthy merchant, Howard Garland Lane, offered to build the new building as a memorial to his father, Joshua Lane. With a price tag of $5,336, the Lane Memorial Library was constructed.

In 1957, the original building was expanded. But it would be another 30 years before the present building came into existence. Faced with several options, including a three-story addition, the town finally settled on a new plan that would revise the three-story design and add a two-story expansion onto the existing structure. In 1983, the 1957 addition was razed, and on April 22, 1985, Lane Memorial Library, with a face-lift, reopened its resources to Hampton.

The library has continued to grow, however, and the building’s space fast becomes a precious commodity. A recent renovation has allowed the staff to get creative. Instead of approaching the townsfolk with requests for untold thousands for a building project, the current space has been utilized as practically and efficiently as possible.

“It’s been 16 years and we’re feeling it,” says Teschek. “It’s getting a little tight in places.”

He is thankful that some of the more important places aren’t tight, like the budget. Hampton doesn’t skimp much when it comes to its library.

Hampton's Eli Bernstein, 10 months, flips
through a book in the children's room at
Lane Memorial Library
[Photo by Carrie Niland]
“In general, we’re pretty well supported,” Teschek says. Which is a good thing, considering the variety of programs the library offers. Between the adult services and the children’s services, Hampton residents — and their children — can always look forward to a full calendar of activities each month: from story hours to family movie nights to the aforementioned tax help sessions.

A public meeting room is made available to local organizations as well. There, groups like the Hampton Garden Club meet. Presentations are also a frequent happening, like a recent demonstration of winter gear by Eastern Mountain Sports.

“It’s been great to work with different groups in towns,” says Jeanne Gamage, director of adult services. “We can provide staff and space and resources. We’re really a community center.”

Serving the community is the primary agenda for the staff of Lane Memorial Library. A recent action taken by adult services has been reaching out to the increasing number of residents who speak little to no English. The library offers ESL tapes for various ethnic groups.

Books requested that are not in stock are readily ordered via interlibrary loan (“We rarely say no,” says Gamage). and patrons find more and more multimedia available. The library has accumulated hundreds of CDs, including a large collection of books on CD. And joining with the digital explosion, Lane is currently building a DVD library.

The one demographic that continues to elude the library, as with many other facilities, is that of young adults. “It’s difficult to get them in,” says Teschek. The Internet-ready computers have helped, but Teschek knows the library isn’t about to force anyone through its doors.

“We try to serve everybody,” says Teschek, “but it’s really if you want to be served. There are a lot of people who just don’t want to use the library. It’s their loss."