In 1970, after using a community resource for years, South Berwick found it did not have a library that was open to the general public. A group of concerned citizens organized the current library to fill this void. The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities owned the Jewett Eastman House in 1971 when the South Berwick Library opened in one rented room of this building. It operated solely with donated books and volunteer librarians. The town accepted these services as the town library in 1972 and began financial support. A librarian was hired in 1973 and the hours that the patrons could use the library have increased steadily to 36 hours a week.
When SPNEA sold the house, a group of civic-minded residents rallied. The Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee purchased the house in 1984 entirely through voluntary donations. The Jewett Eastman House was the home of the South Berwick Public Library until 2012 and remains an integral part of the community. Situated in the heart of the historic district of South Berwick, the house is listed on the National Historic Registry. and is being reacquired by Historic New England, as SPNEA is now named.
After 40 years in the charming but small Jewett Eastman House, the town of South Berwick purchased the church, rectory, and properties of the former St. Michael’s Church in 2010. Years of planning and commitment to expand library services by citizens is now focused on the transformation of the former church space into South Berwick’s new twenty-first century Library. Extensive exterior work and a new addition were completed in 2011 and the former rectory was saved and moved by Russ Tarason at no expense to the town. Other organizations are negotiating with South Berwick to redevelop the remaining property to the best advantage of the community.
The Friends of the South Berwick Public Library committed to raising over one million dollars in a capital campaign that was key to raising the funds to finish the interior renovation and furnish the library with furniture and equipment.
In March of 2012, the library was moved from the Jewett Eastman house to 27 Young Street, where it operated in a part of the renovation project. Occupation of the entire space began in September of 2012.The Friends also contributed to redesigning and re-constructing parts of the geothermal system that were causing vibration and noise issues and stabilizing the remaining stained glass window.
The new Library is a major addition to downtown South Berwick. Centrally located, easily accessible, and with ample parking, the Library is a gathering place for all of South Berwick’s citizen’s. More than just a collection of books, a library serves many roles in the education, entertainment and advancement of a community and it’s citizens.