The main building of the Osterhout Free Library is located in the River Front Historic District in downtown Wilkes-Barre in a building that was formerly a Presbyterian church. The library was named after its founding patron, Smith Osterhout. Today the library has four different locations around the Wilkes-Barre area – the central or main building at 71 South Franklin Street, the North Branch at 28 Oliver Street, the Plains Branch at 126 North Main Street, and the South Branch at 2 Airy Street. The library offers a number of different programs for people of all ages. The Osterhout Free Library and its branches are members of the Luzerne County Library System.
Smith Osterhout was a merchant and real estate developer in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area through much the 19th century. He died in 1882, and left a large part of his estate designated to the founding and funding of a public library. In 1887 the libraries board of directors (which included Melvil Dewey, who created the Dewey Decimal System still used by libraries today in order to catalog books) purchased the old Presbyterian Church with the intention of using it as a temporary home for the new library. However, that building wound up becoming a permanent home, as it still houses the library today. The building was built around 1848 and is a Gothic style structure.
Due to the fact that the Osterhout Free Library is a part of the Luzerne County Library System, patrons can check out materials using their Luzerne County Library cards. As long as they live in the county, they are eligible to join and obtain a library card. However, in order to do so, a form must be filled out at either a branch of the Luzerne County Library System or at one of the Osterhout Free Library branches. In fact, if you live elsewhere in Pennsylvania and have purchased a special “Access Pennsylvania” library card, you can check out materials from the Osterhout Free Library.
Some of the many different programs and activities offered at the Osterhout Free Library include Teens night, which is open to those between the ages of 11 and 18. Some of the Teens Night themes include board games night, puzzle night and pancakes night. These are scheduled to take place on Wednesday evenings, and provide teens with a chance to socialize with like minded peers. The Osterhout Library also hosts a Knit and Crochet group on various Saturday mornings, and a continuing series of Adult Computer Classes. The Computer Classes are for beginners only, and registration is required. There is also a mandatory fee for these classes. There are also storytimes and other activities for young children that are held periodically in the Ken L. Pollack Children’s Wing of the main library.
The Osterhout Free Library is a local public library offering a number of books, courses and online access for residents of Luzerne County. The library itself is a testament of the Progressive Era, in which prominent citizens went out of their way to promote public activities and programs, such as libraries. If you want to join in and support the library, make sure to get a library card and check out a book or attend a special program. You could also join the Friends of the Osterhout Free Library group.