History

During Town Meeting of 1893, the citizens voted to start a library, and $25 was appropriated. Another $100 was provided by the state of New Hampshire. The first library trustees were Daniel S. Woodman, Frank Faye, and Frank E. Scruton. Books were kept in private homes. Hiram S. Hill became the 1st librarian, followed by his wife, Hattie Daniels Hill. In 1910, when Mae Foss became librarian, there were 1500 books in the library. They were kept in a room in the Austin-Cate Academy building, before being moved to the Town Hall. Later, the books were transferred to the home of Ms. Foss, who served as librarian for approximately 30 years. The library was moved to the home of Guy Huckins in 1940, when Mrs. Ruth Huckins became librarian. In the early 1940s, the bookmobile from the State Library in Concord began visiting Strafford.

In 1965, a room was remodeled in Austin Hall and furnished for the library. It opened in May, and Mrs. Eleanor Smith became librarian. The Strafford Women’s Club gave $196 and the Ladies Circle of Center Strafford gave $10 for new books, and more books are borrowed from the Chesley Memorial Library in Northwood.

The Strafford Library Study Committee was appointed by the moderator after town meeting in 1970, to investigate the feasibility of constructing and maintaining a library in the town of Strafford and accepting a donation of $10,000 from Miss Bernice Hill and her brother, Kenneth, for that purpose. Their cousin, Gordon Hill, in memory of his parents, offered a plot of land, on which his mother had envisioned just such a building.

The Committee became the Strafford Library Association (SLA) and undertook fundraising and oversight of a new library building. The building was completed in 1971 and on July 15, 1973, a dedication ceremony was held, at which time the new building became the Hill Library in memory of the Hill families.

After the retirement of Mrs. Eleanor Smith in 1975, Teressa Sammis became librarian. In August 1977, she resigned and Ellen Stiles was librarian for the next 10 years, retiring in 1987 when Kathryn Steward became the librarian. Ken Berry succeeded Mrs. Steward, and is the current librarian.

In 1988, a new wing was added to the existing building. Bernice Hill again offered a substantial financial contribution, and other funds were raised by the SLA. This room was dedicated as the Bernice Hill Room and houses and ever-growing nonfiction section and paperback collection as well as shelving for several personal collections of historic relevance to Strafford.

The Library has grown from 180 volumes kept in people’s homes in 1893 to 12,095 books in the Hill Library. The library’s computerized catalog data bank enables the staff to interact with the libraries throughout New Hampshire and elsewhere. A children’s section draws classes and individuals, and several community groups hold their meetings here.

Strafford and statewide history can be found in the Cilley wing near the Cilley nature collection, which concentrates on birds. The Strafford Historical Society has placed a variety of documents, memorabilia and photographs. The town reports date back to 1882.

Chief benefactors of Hill Library. Gordon Hill, who donated the land, Bernice and Kenneth Hill, who gave the money.

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