I came upon this interesting tidbit the other day while perusing a wonderful blog about libraries: http://libraryhistorybuff.blogspot.com/2009/07/free-public-libraries-160-years.html.
"July 7, 2009 marked the 160th anniversary of the passage by the State of New Hampshire of the first general free public library law in the United States. The passage of this law in 1849 marked a major milestone in the development of the American public library. The New Hampshire law said in part: "Every public library ... shall be opened to the free use of every inhabitant of the town or city ... for the general diffusion of intelligence among all classes of the community ..."."
Good for New Hampshire!