Children's Services

What kinds of programming for children do you have?

We have both Story Times and our Summer Reading Program. All programs are free to residents. During the school year we offer Story Times for children 2-6 and Toddler Time for 12-24 month olds. Meeting times vary, and include evenings. Each Story Time consists of stories, "finger plays", songs or games, and a craft. For more information, please visit our Story Time page.

What is your Summer Reading Program?

Our Summer Reading Program is a non-competitive reading club for children 2 and up designed to encourage reading during the summer months. Children set reading goals and earn prizes as they read toward their goal. Special activities include storytellers, puppeteers, and craft workshops. The program ends with an outdoor party for all participants.

Reference Services

How can I or my organization book a room for meetings?

One large meeting room, which holds up to 61 people, and one smaller meeting room, which holds up to 12 people, are available to non-profit organizations on a limited basis during regular library hours. Interested parties should read the Rochester Public Library Meeting Room Policy and Rules of Use and fill out a Reservation and Contact Information Form. For more information call the Reference Desk at 335-7550.

What additional services do you offer?

Are you housebound or short for time? Call the reference department at 335-7550 and our librarians will try and find the answer for you and either call you back or have material ready and waiting for you to pick up.

I need information on a specific topic.  Can someone help me?

Our staff of trained reference librarians will assist you to the best of their ability with all the resources at their disposal, from reference books to websites and our online databases.

I'd like to research my family genealogy.  Where should I start? Do you have anything at the library?

The Library has many resources for genealogists. We provide access to Ancestry Plus, the Rochester city directories, the City of Rochester Annual Reports, indexed articles from the Rochester Courier, and more! Check our Resources page for a complete list of databases for use.


How do I get, or renew my library card?

To get a library card, OR to renew your card, visit the Main Desk or Children's Desk at the Library. Bring with you: A current government issued photo ID AND one (1) of the following documents that shows your current Rochester residential address:

  1. Current utility bill with your name and Rochester address
  2. Recent postmarked mail addressed to you
  3. Current car registration in your name
  4. Current lease agreement
  5. Current property tax receipt
  6. Current Rochester public school ID
By accepting a library card you agree to be responsible for materials checked out and fines incurred, and agree to abide by the Rochester Public Library Rules of Conduct. You are responsible for:
  • Returning materials borrowed on your card by the due date, or paying the late fees.
  • Paying replacement costs for library items that are lost or damaged while checked out to your account.
  • Immediately reporting a lost or stolen card. If you lose your card, you can obtain a replacement card by showing identification and paying a replacement fee.
  • Reporting any change of address or telephone number.

What types of cards are available?

We offer four different types of library cards: 1. Resident Card This card is issued to any resident of Rochester, East Rochester, or Gonic over the age of 12. The patron must bring in a picture ID and proof of address as described above. Resident Cards need to be renewed every year. City Employees who do not live in Rochester can bring in their pay stub to get a card.
2. Children's Card Library patrons between the ages of 5 and 12 must have parental approval to open a library account. A child and their parent/guardian must complete an application form available at the Children's Desk. Children must be present to be issued a library card. Parents/guardians are responsible for library items borrowed and any fines incurred by the child.
Parents may use their own cards to borrow materials for children under 5. Registration in the public schools is considered proof of residency; otherwise we ask to see the parent's driver's license (or other identification) and proof of address as described above. Children's cards need to be renewed every year.
3. Organization Card A business or organization that owns or rents office space in Rochester is eligible to apply for a Library card. To apply, the Business Owner or Organization Director shall complete an application in person at a circulation desk in the library. The owner/director will present personal identification and documentation that the business/organization is located in Rochester. Documentation may include:

  • Property tax bill
  • Rent receipt
  • Utility bill that includes both the name of the business, the name of the owner, and the street address
The business/organization is issued only one card. The card may be used by the Business Owner or Organization Director and any approved borrowers indicated by the Business Owner or Organization Director who assumes responsibility for all fines incurred. Anyone using the card must be prepared to show identification to verify that they are an "Approved Borrower". The borrower must present the card at checkout. Organization Cards need to be renewed every year.
4. Non-Resident Cards These cards provide a household with access to all library services, including children's programs. The cost is $30.00 for a six-month card or $60.00 for a one-year card.

How long can I keep the books and videos I check out?

Most books, audio books, and music CD's are loaned for three weeks. Most DVDs and magazines are loaned for one week. There are a few exceptions, so be sure to ask when checking out materials. If not returned on time, fines are charged at a rate of 20 cents per item per day overdue, to a maximum of $5 per item, at which point the patron is charged a replacement fee. Higher fees apply to interlibrary loan materials.
Some common borrowing limits include a maximum of 5 DVDs and 3 children's DVDs, 5 audio books and 3 items on a nonfiction topic at any one time.

How do I renew items I have checked out?

Most items can be renewed one time, unless there is a hold on the item for another patron. Items can be renewed online through your account or by calling the Library 603-332-1428.

What if the library doesn't have an item I want?

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) can help you obtain library materials not owned by us, although new books cannot be requested, and may take up to 2 weeks to receive. We will try to fill requests for audio books and videos, however, not all libraries lend these types of materials. This service is available to any cardholder who has had a card for at least 3 months and has no outstanding fines. For more information on this service, please call 335-7550 or come into the library and fill out a request form.

How do I borrow museum or theater passes?

You must be a library card holder to borrow a museum pass. Check the current list of pass offerings online, and then go to the Children's or Adult Desk to sign up for a particular day. You can sign up for the current month or the next month. Maximum family use is once per month per pass. You cannot check out passes if you owe fines over $5.00.

How do I manage my account online?

The library's web address is: You can access the library catalog to see what is in the library collection, or click "my account" to see what you have checked out and when it is due. You can then renew items, if desired.

How do I access your online resources?

You can access information on e-books, e-audio, and other borrowable online content on our Downloads page. For geneaology, general research, language learning, or reference questions, check our Research Resources page.

How do I set up a PIN / Password?

A PIN / Password is created by clicking on the My Account tab and entering your last name and library barcode number (the full set of digits on the back of your library card). Then click Submit and enter your PIN / Password following the guidelines. If you still require assistance please call the LIbrary 603-332-1428 ext 2

How do I place a hold on an item?

Holds can be placed online through your library account or by calling the Library 603-332-1428

About the Library

Who we are:

The Rochester Public Library provides all members of the community with free access to information and materials that can be used to fulfill their educational, intellectual, cultural and recreational needs. The library is divided into three main departments: Children's Services, Adult Services, and Reference Services. Each department provides books, videos, CD's, electronic databases, Internet access, assistance in finding the right information or materials, programming, and more. The library also provides meeting rooms and display space to individuals and organizations who can help the library fulfill its mission of providing access to information.


The Rochester Public Library is located at 65 South Main Street, Rochester NH 03867. We are between Friendly's and First Church Congregational.

What are the hours?

Call 603-332-1428 ex 2 for hours Sunday
Closed The Library's outer doors are locked 15 minutes prior to closing.

What are the holiday hours?

We will be closed in honor of the holidays on: Memorial Day - Monday, May 30, 2022 Independence Day - Monday, July 4, 2022 Labor Day - Monday, September 5,2022 Columbus Day - Monday, October 10, 2022 Veteran's Day - Friday, November 11, 2022 Thanksgiving Day - Thursday, November 24, 2022 Day After Thanksgiving - Friday, November 25, 2021\2 Christmas Day - Monday, December 26, 2022 New Years Day - Friday, December 31, 2021

What is the history of the Library?

"The Rochester Public Library"
Social Library 1792, Public Library 1893

"The History of the Rochester Public Library"
by Bud Scheffer

December, 1993

One hundred and one years before the start of the first Free Public Library, a Social Library was founded on the 12th of March, 1792. A small number of citizens gathered at the house of Col. John Goodwin and subscribed a paper in which they declared that "learning tended to enlarge the views and soften the tempers of humankind." They all agreed to a form a social library. Each member paid eighteen shillings (about $2.50) toward the first purchase of books. Some members, in lieu of money, contributed an equal value in books. There were twenty three paid members by the end of 1792.

Franklin McDuffee, in his book The History of Rochester stated, "Next to churches and schools, libraries are the most important factor in the education of any community." At the time the "Rochester Social Library Company" was formed, libraries were even more of a necessity than they are now. Books were scarce and costly. The great variety of daily, weekly, and monthly periodicals which we take for granted today were unknown in 1792. Family reading usually consisted on the Bible, the almanac, and a school book or two. Almost every family today has more books than could have been collected in the whole town of Rochester at that time. Only a few affluent men had personal libraries,

The first book was presented by the Reverend Joseph Haven entitled The Principles of Natural and Political Law, a highly respected work at that time. During the summer of 1792, more books were ordered and the Rev. Haven was invited to deliver an oration before the society on the first of October. In his introduction he said, "We are now assembled in order to open a Social Library in this town, and though it may be looked upon as a day of small things, our hopes are raised and we expect within reason that from a small beginning happy effects will follow. That our society will increase, our library multiply and literature so prevail that this town will rise in honor and usefulness, have better knowledge of mankind and the important doctrines of Christianity; that religious virtue and morality, and the arts and sciences will flourish."

In the following years membership grew and included the most eminent citizens of the day. It became evident that what was founded was an institution not merely for themselves, but for posterity. In 1794 the association was incorporated by the legislature and continued to maintain some degree of life and interest until 1823. At that time there were about 400 volumes in the library, however for the next eleven years it was sadly neglected. No records were kept and the books were scattered throughout the town. Interest in the library was renewed in 1834. Through the efforts of Charles Dennett and others, an act was passed giving the society a new charter.

With a new charter, new by-laws, and an active librarian the society prospered with an increasing membership and respectable yearly additions to its library. In 1892, the one hundredth year of operation, the fee for membership was $5.00 with an annual tax of $1.00. Non members could use the library for a fee of $1.50 per year. The number of volumes in 1892 was about 2200 and approximately 60 regularly used the library.

In January of 1893, a movement to establish a Free Public Library for Rochester was started by the Grange. With determination the members passed a petition throughout the city and presented it to the City Council. The Rochester Courier was also an earnest advocate for this much needed public institution.

The plan outlined was for the existing Social Library to be converted into a free public library using its 2000 or so books as a nucleus, and the city to appropriate annually a sum of money for maintenance and improvements. There would be no problem convincing the stockholders of the Social Library to surrender their shares to the city. With the acquisition of the books of the 101 year old Social Library, the city could boast of having a library as old and with as interesting a history as any in New Hampshire. Rochester had been behind the times in not having a free public library. Many neighboring towns, such as Dover, Exeter, Newmarket, and others, had already established libraries.

Within six months after presenting the petition, the city council, on June 23, 1893, adopted an ordinance providing for the establishment of a Free Public Library for the city of Rochester. They appropriated the sum of $2,000 from an unexpended balance in the city treasury. This was used to rent space and purchase books and supplies for the operation of the library.

The Hon. Orrin A. Hoyt, the new city of Rochester’s second mayor, became chairman ex-officio of the library’s newly elected Board of Trustees. These six men would manage the library’s affairs and make all decisions necessary. They would come from each of Rochester’s six wards:

Ward 1 – Josiah H. Whittier of East Rochester
Ward 2 – William W. Allen
Ward 3 – Hon. Charles S. Whitehouse of Gonic
Ward 4 – John Young
Ward 5 – Dr. James Farrington
Ward 6 – J. Edgar McDuffee

Mr. McDuffee was the first secretary of the board and chairman of the book committee. His interest and devoted labor played a large part in the success of the new project.

Dr. Farrington was a successful physician and ex-member of the Governor’s Council.

John Young succeeded McDuffee as secretary and held that position as long as he lived.

Hon. Charles S. Whitehouse, who was the city’s first mayor in 1891, never qualified as a library trustee due to his previous position as mayor. For some time Ward 3 was not represented.

William W. Allen was the principal of the high school and a respected educator.

Josiah H. Whittier was a bookkeeper in the Cocheco Mills in East Rochester, secretary of the state library commission, and an enthusiast of free public libraries. Mr. Whittier had made a study of library methods and endeavored to have a uniform system of classification and circulation for the libraries of New Hampshire. He was actively involved in promoting the use of the Dewey Decimal system in our library. This system was later adopted in many of the public libraries as well as colleges throughout the country.

After some early deliberations, the board decided to rent to second store from the north end of the Barker Block at 42 South Main St. The annual rent was $400. It would be heated by steam and lit by electricity.

The next decision of the trustees was the selection of a librarian. Twenty three applicants has applied from which they could choose, but they did a rather amazing thing. They sought out one who was not on the list of twenty three, one whose business training had fitted her for a position of responsibility, and asked her if she would accept the position. While she was considering the offer, the trustees met and elected her to the office. Again, their wisdom and vision was proven, in that this first librarian, Miss Lillian E. Parshley, continued in that capacity for the next 52 years.

On Saturday, October 21, 1893, Rochester witnessed the end of the Social Library. All volumes were returned and no more would be issued. As the new public library, the institution had entered upon a much wider and more useful career. The books were brought into the Public Library’s new quarters. These books were anywhere from one to one hundred years old. Many contributions of books, magazines and other periodicals began coming in from individuals. These all had to be sorted, cataloged and shelved. This long and tedious task was completed in January 1894. On Monday, January 22, 1894, the first free public library in Rochester opened its door to the public. It was open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and evenings. Forty cards were issued on the first day. The rush of patronage on the part of the people exceeded the anticipation of all concerned with this new enterprise. Two things were at once apparent, namely that there had been a crying need for such an institution and there was a need of sufficient funding to keep it growing and improving.

At the end of 1894, there were 3,240 volumes in the library and it remained and grew at that location for the next three years. On August 4, 1896, the city passed a resolution to purchase the John McDuffee lot on Wakefield Street for $12,000, which included a residence and other buildings. It was purchased on the condition that no city hall building would be built on the lot for a period of ten years. Sixteen hundred dollars was then appropriated to make the old McDuffee house suitable for city offices and a library. In January of 1897, the library moved into its new quarters on the second floor of the city buildings. The library continued to grow at this location for a little over eight and a half years until it closed on September 9, 1905.

Mr. O. B. Warren, Rochester’s postmaster, in 1902 or 1903, started a correspondence with Andrew Carnegie of New York, in an effort to interest him in building a library building for Rochester. Mr. Warren mentioned that our town was settled in part by Scottish immigrants. On December 25, 1903, an announcement was made on the front page of the Rochester Courier that a check for $17,500 (later changed to $20,000) would be sent to Rochester from Mr. Carnegie. The city was required was required to provide a lot and at least $2,000 for maintenance annually. The efforts of Postmaster Warren were responsible for the splendid Christmas present received by the city. The lot provided was already city owned. It was on South Main Street and formally the location of the first Rochester High School built in 1857, which had become obsolete. After completion of the new library in the spring of 1905, money was appropriated for the furnishings and the grading of the surrounding grounds as well as new sidewalks. The building was a beautiful Georgian Revival style structure that became an asset to the city and still remains a landmark in Rochester. It was built of red brick with a granite base and white brick trimming, copper cornices, copper finials and a slate roof. The first floor contained a general as well as a children’s reading room, the librarian’s room, a stack room, a reference room and a delivery room. On the second floor were a lecture room (Carnegie Hall) with a seating capacity of one hundred, a historical room, a trustee’s room and an art gallery. In the basement, there was a newspaper room, a janitor’s room, an unpacking room, a stack room and two bathrooms. The first floor was finished in oak and the second floor and basement in cypress. Birch floors were installed throughout. The building was equipped with electric lights and steam heat. There were fireplaces in both reading rooms.

The building was completed within the specified sum of $20,000, leaving an unexpected balance of $22.92 to its credit. The architects were Randlett and Griffin of Concord, N.H. and the contractor was Kelly Brothers of Haverhill, Massachusetts. It was turned over to the Library Board of Trustees on October 2, 1905by Mayor C. W. Bickford and opened to the public.

Main Desk – 1905

Lillian Parshley, principal executive officer, then spent forty more years at this library. She was an exceptionally able and dedicated librarian who operated and improved the services and facilities throughout the years. Under her direction, the library grew from a mere dispenser of books into a diverse, living institution, adequately meeting the needs of the community. Miss Parshley was instrumental in proving that the existing building had to be expanded. In 1941, an addition was added to the rear of the building. This included a second floor museum, a first floor stack room and a basement room for additional newspapers and periodicals. This room was named the "Courier Room" as the Rochester Courier played an important part in the founding and development of the library.

Entrance Hall – 1905

Lillian Parshley served as Librarian from its founding until her death on January 15, 1945. She was deservedly honored by the city for guiding the library from one of 2400 books to one of over 40,000 books, making it one of the finest in the state.

Lillian E. Parshley

Under the capable leadership of the following librarians, Rochester’s public library has continued to improve and grow:

1893-1945 - Lillian E. Parshley

1945-1954 - E. Velma Foss

1954-1970 - M. Felice Baril

1970-1973 - Barbara R. King

1973-1975 - Sheldon Kaye

1975-1989 - Roberta H. Ryan

1989-1992 - Tedine J. Roos

1992-xxxx - Cynthia L. Scott*

(at the time this document was published in 1993)

Many residents visit the library daily to read a large variety if newspapers and magazines. Children are introduced to library facilities through their own attractively decorated reading room and children’s story hours. Video tapes, records, and audio cassettes, etc. are also available as a library privilege to those who wish to borrow them. The New Hampshire Room, McDuffee Room, and the reference and reading rooms are widely used by students, historians and genealogists.

Today, in its 100th year, the Rochester Public Library can boast more than 55,000 books, over 11,000 members, and it is still growing. In 1905, there were 10,000 books and 876 members. That’s a 450% increase in books and a whopping 1150% increase in membership since this library building opened.

Congratulations to Rochester on the one hundredth birthday of its public library, and may it grow and prosper for the next hundred.

Taken from Bud Scheffer’s History of the Rochester Public Library as celebrated on the one hundredth anniversary of its opening on January 22, 1994.


Rochester Public Library List of Directors:

1893-1945 - Lillian E. Parshley

1945-1954 - E. Velma Foss

1954-1970 - M. Felice Baril

1970-1973 - Barbara R. King

1973-1975 - Sheldon Kaye

1975-1989 - Roberta H. Ryan

1989-1992 - Tedine J. Roos

1992-1999 - Cynthia L. Scott

1999-2000 - Ruth Hooten

2000-2002 - Cynthia L. Scott

2002-2012 - John Fuchs

2012-Present - Brian Sylvester

How do I donate/give gifts to the library?

Please call the Library if you would like to donate material. Donations must be made without condition as to their use. Monetary donations and Memorial Donations are welcome.

Does the library have handicapped access?

Wheelchair access is provided at both entrances and the elevator accesses all floors.

How do I get on the internet?

The library currently provides computers for Rochester Public Library card holders to access the Internet for one hour a day. Use of the Internet is free, but users must agree to abide by the library's policies. Users under the age of 18 require a parent's signature on the Internet User Registration Form. Sign up for Internet use at the Main Desk. Wireless internet access is also available.

How do I become a Friend of the Library?

The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization of civic-minded individuals, working in cooperation with the trustees and librarians to provide valuable support for the library and its programs. Friends are volunteers who bring about public awareness of the library and its many resources available to the community. Historically, the Friends have helped to raise funds for our building addition in 1996, purchased new library furniture, and a new circulation desk. We also purchased an electronic device for patron instruction and awards for summer reading programs. We currently provide all but 2 of our museum passes,* sell cloth book bags, create themed raffle baskets, purchase items not covered by the library budget, and host several library events as well as participate in many community events. We are always looking for more members and fresh ideas! Please consider joining us to help us grow and continue to support the library. Benefits of “Friend-ship” The altruistic uplifting of your library and its patrons of all ages Make new friends and get to know your community Discounts on library bags Attend and participate in monthly meetings on the first Monday of each month (summer schedule varies) Share your ideas and creativity Participate in activities *The Friends of the Rochester Public Library make available to library cardholders free or low cost passes to museums. The passes currently available include: Children’s Museum of New Hampshire Currier Museum of Art Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Museum of Science, Boston NH Farm Museum NH Historical Society Seacoast Science Center Strawbery Banke Woodman Institute Wright Museum of WWII We also coordinate many activities that are open and free to our community: Afternoon Book Club Seated Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation Adult coloring and card making Common Threads Evening NH Humanities seminars