By Robert A.
The Osterhout Free Library in my hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, celebrated its 125th birthday on January 29, 2014. The Osterhout is the first public library that I ever visited and memories of my experiences at this venerable institution are rich and plentiful.
My grandfather would often take my younger brother and I to the Osterhout, which is located just off the public square, after dropping my grandmother off at work. We’d spend an hour or so browsing, casually reading, and checking things out with our newly-minted library cards. My elementary school class also took periodic trips to the Osterhout,for library orientations, special programs, or to visit the exhibits related to the history of Anthracite coal mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I moved away from Wilkes-Barre at the age of ten, but my grandparents remained in the area, so I’d visit the Osterhout when in town. I fondly recall summer book sales on the front lawn where I’d secure a stack of great books and used rock and roll records for 25 cents apiece, which all found a place strewn about my teenage bedroom.
Throughout the years, I’ve spent countless hours in libraries. As a high school, undergraduate, and graduate student, I found libraries absolutely indispensable to my academic success. Today, my wife and I are regulars at the Richmond/Milton Marks Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, an institution we rely on for access to expensive or hard-to-find university press texts for use in our professional endeavors.
However, the Osterhout Free Library still plays a role in my life. On my most recent trip to visit my grandparents in Wilkes-Barre, I brought my laptop in order to work remotely. I planted myself in a comfortable corner of the main reading room of the Osterhout, logged on to the free wi-fi, and happily ensconced myself in my work authoring interactive U.S. History course materials. The gorgeous vaulted ceilings and warm, silent atmosphere inspired me then just as it did some thirty years before during my earliest visits.
Happy Birthday, Dear Osterhout!