Our 2020 Charitable Organization of the Year, the Osterhout Free Library, has tirelessly supported our community and provided vital free services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, including educational, entertainment, cultural and social activities, that are provided free of charge to its patrons of all ages.
On January 29, 1889 the Osterhout Free Library opened its doors to the people of Wilkes-Barre for the first time. The library was a gift to the city’s inhabitants from prominent local merchant, Isaac Osterhout and was one of the first libraries in northeastern Pennsylvania. At that time, many libraries were reserved for paying members. Issac Osterhout’s vision was to create a “People’s University,” thus the free library was born. Over the years branches have been added and currently we have branches in North Wilkes-Barre, Plains and South Wilkes-Barre to better serve patrons living far from the original Franklin Street location. Today, the Osterhout Free Library also serves as the headquarters for the Luzerne County Library system.
The Osterhout Free Library has been a cornerstone of the community serving Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County, in good times and bad. During the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic the library served the people of Wilkes-Barre and has since remained a steadfast resource during the current Coronavirus pandemic. As more and more business and schools go virtual, the library and the free internet access it provides are even more crucial than before. Patrons utilize the computers at the library to pay bills, keep in touch with family, attend classes, and apply for jobs. The library has also provided a designated space for local children to use the WiFi and attend school virtually. When the current pandemic began, library staff created a coronavirus information section of our website so the public will have easy access to credible facts in these uncertain times. They have worked hard to better serve patrons virtually, allocating more money for eBooks, databases, and answering patron inquiries via email and phone throughout the shutdown. The Youth Services department provides ready access to books for parents who may now be homeschooling their children, and is now offering virtual programming such as Science Saturday. The library has developed partnerships to introduce the public library to students when some schools have closed their libraries. Additionally, they have added puzzles and games for patrons to check out and use at home with their children. Staff have even put together make and take crafts for all ages and virtual treasure hunts and trivia. To continue providing these services, the Osterhout Free Library relies on a combination of government grants, community donations and endowments which stretch all the way back to Isaac Osterhout’s original gift.
To find out more about the Osterhout and to get involved, visit them online at https://osterhout.info/.
Make sure to join us for our Chamber Annual Dinner on November 19th at 4 PM LIVE on Facebook and YouTube to celebrate the Osterhout Free Library and the rest of our honorees that night! Click here to register today!