“Green” Building – Portsmouth NH Public Library

Have you visited the new library yet? If you haven’t you are certainly missing out on a great library and if you have you already have you know just what a wonderful addition to Portsmouth the library is. I visited for the first time in April 2007 and quickly became a “heavy user” of the extensive collections from books to DVDs to CDs.

The original library was at 8 Islington Street and opened in 1896. One hundred and ten years later, the new library opened at 175 Parrott Avenue in December 2006. The new library is over 38,000 sq. ft. of state of the art space. A bright, light and airy space with lots of comfortable stuffed chairs to enjoy a magazine or newspaper and work areas to focus on your projects. Wireless internet is available throughout.

It was designed as a “green” building. The design optimized energy performance above 32.5%; there are views in 90% of the spaces; reduced light pollution, daylight in 75% of the spaces, reduced water use and water efficient landscaping. Local and regional materials were used in 20% of the building. Low emitting materials were used throughout including paint, carpet and composite wood. One interesting fact is the first floor is only 10.5 feet above sea level.

When you enter the library it is hard to miss the Liberty Pole Eagle c.1824 hanging in the main staircase over the time capsule. It was originally carved to top the Liberty Pole. This pole was the successor to the original pole that was erected in 1766 at the time of the Stamp Act. In 1977 it was decided that the eagle had become too fragile to stay outside and was moved indoors to the library. The current Liberty Pole has its own eagle and still stands on Marcy Street across from Strawbery Banke. The eagle is carved of wood and covered in gold leaf. It is believed that the eagle was carved by Laban Beecher (1805-1876) A Boston wood carver that had come to Portsmouth to do carving on the sloop-of-war Concord by the Navy. Mr. Beecher would have been 19 years old when he carved the eagle. It is only assumed that he carved the eagle since he was the only known carver in the area at the time.

Visit the Special Collections room to research historic Portsmouth. The Reference Department is always happy to be of assistance. Located on the second floor. In the Main Lobby there is a large portrait of Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) believed to have been painted by Emil Otto Grundmann (German, 1844-1890) he was the first head of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Celia Laighton Thaxter was a local author, poet, painter and gardener. She spent most of her life living out on the Isles of Shoals. She ran the Appledore Hotel and hosted summer salons that attracted many 19th century luminaries, artistic and literary figures including Hawthorne, Emerson, and Twain. Her son, Karl Thaxter, donated the portrait to the library in 1896.

The Youth Wing offers a Teen Room, Sun Room, Storytime Room and Activity Room. There are several computer stations dedicated to youth use. A nice collection of child friendly videos and DVDs are housed here.

You can browse the catalog from your home computer by going to http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/library. Through the internet you can search the catalog, see what you have checked out, renew books, audio and VHS tapes, reserve a book and download a wide variety of audio books.

What Can You Borrow at the Library: It’s more than just books!

Music CDs – The collection is constantly growing and you can borrow up to 5 CDs for two weeks

VHS Tapes – An extensive array is awaits you and now you can borrow as many VHS tapes as you like, keep them for two weeks and even renew them! My favorite area is the group of non-fiction tapes that give you a tour of the area.

DVDs – Borrow 5 for a week. These cannot be renewed but there is a large group of movies, documentaries and TV programs.

Books on Tape and CD – I am really enjoying working through the books on CD at the library. A great way to use your commuting time for other personal and educational pursuits. Car rides and work days just seem to fly by when hearing a good story.

There is more to the Portsmouth Public Library. It is definitely a community meeting place. Several activities and groups meet there regularly. On Saturday morning from 10-12 there is an open Mah Jong game going on in the café. Every other Tuesday from 7-8:45pm a World War II discussion group meets in the MacLeod Board Room. Mondays at 7pm and Tuesdays at 1pm is the time for Adult Book Discussions. You can find the schedule of books to be discussed at the front desk.

Film Series are an active part of the library scene. Thursday evenings at 7pm movies are shown in the Levenson Meeting Room on the first floor. Coming up they are featuring “Breach” (2007) starring Chris Cooper and Laura Linney and “Waitress” (2007) starring Keri Russell and Andy Griffith. The Film Noir series meets Wednesdays at 1pm. Recent movies included “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950) directed by John Huston and starring Sterling Hayden and “In a Lonely Place” (1950) directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart.

Over 12,000 residents of Portsmouth borrow books and more from the library. And if you are from out of town you can join too. Currently the one year annual membership fee is only $75 or join for six months for $40.

Hours are 9-9 Monday through Thursday 9-5:30 on Friday and 9-5 on Saturday

Portsmouth Public Library