The first library in Haverhill was the private "Haverhill Library" established in 1796. It required a $5.00 membership fee and a $1.00 annual dues. Other libraries through the years were the Apprentices' (1830), the Theological (1830), and the Mechanics (1831). A Haverhill Lyceum was established in 1830 to arrange annual lecture series for the community and also had a library. In 1860, the the major libraries - the Lyceum, Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute joined to form the "Haverhill Library Association." It served for 15 years as a relatively 'public' library.
In 1873, one individual - E.J.M. Hale - made a proposal to the new city of Haverhill to establish a truly public library for the city. He would provide a lot on which to build and half the cost of a furnished library building, the other half to be raised by the people of Haverhill. Thereafter, a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees (with the Mayor as Chairman) would forever provide for all library materials and facilities, if the city would agree to provide funds for the maintenance of the facilities and salaries of the staff. It was so agreed, and in trust, has continued to the present time. The original building opened in November 1875 with Edward Capen, first Librarian of the Boston Public Library, as Haverhill's first Director.
Nearly 100 permanent funds, with a value of approximately $1.75 million, have been established. Some of the earliest provided for specific collections in the Arts & Genealogy & Local History, which are outstanding collections today. Numerous branch libraries have existed, but when Haverhill's first "Book Bus", the first bookmobile in New England, was put into operation in the early 1930's, most of the branches were closed.
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