With three separate branches throughout the city and one in Plains Township, the Osterhout Library (pronounced Oo-ster-howt) opened on January 29, 1889 and has remained open to this day.
It’s become a large part of the Wilkes-Barre community, hosting events throughout the year including their famous book sale, and is part of the Luzerne County Library System.
The library has a very interesting history that fits right in with the rich history of the area.
When Isaac Smith Osterhout passed away in 1882, he left a large portion of his real estate behind with the intention of it being used as a free and public library. It became one of the first free libraries in the area.
The creator of the Dewey Decimal System, Melvil Dewey, was hired as an advisor and he recommended that the board purchase the First Presbyterian Church as a temporary location. It has been the main branches’ location ever since.
Hannah Packard James was the first head librarian, and she was responsible to laying the foundation of the library we know and love today. The original library collection consisted of about 10,000 books from Osterhout’s personal collection, plus an additional 9,500 that were purchased from Charles Scribner and Sons.
In 1904, the Osterhout was one of the first libraries in the country to open a children’s department in the library. But tragedy struck during the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood, destroying over 69,000 books, plus all of the library’s magazines and newspapers. In 1975, their collection was rebuilt to include 124,000 books.
The North Branch was added in 1922, first located on North Washington St. It was moved to George St. when it became clear that they needed a larger location, but after suffering from a fire it was eventually moved to an old church on Oliver St. where it stands today.
The South Branch was opened in 1929 at the corner of Stanton and Airy Sts. where it still stands today. It is located nearby to Dodson Elementary School.
The fourth location, the Plains Branch, was opened in 1968 and is located in a room that is part of the Plains Township Municipal Offices.
Built in 1849, the building is the oldest building in the area that is open to the public. The Gothic Architecture gave the public library a sophisticated atmosphere.
Gothic Architecture is characterized by pointed arches, buttresses, large windows grouped together, rose windows, clustered columns, and towers.
With four separate locations to choose from, there’s an Osterhout for you! Below you will find the address and phone number for each location. Or, you can visit their website www.osterhout.info.
71 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
28 Oliver Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18705
126 North Main Street
Plains, PA 18705
2 Airy Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
Kayleigh is a content writer with a BA in technical writing/literature and an MA in creative writing. When she’s not at work writing, she’s at home writing, reading, or binge-watching television shows… for research, of course. A big do-it-yourselfer and crafter, Kayleigh loves testing out projects and gifting them to friends and family—all in preparation for when she owns her own home one day and decorates with her own personal creations. Her work has appeared on The Writing Cooperative and as an Honorable Mention in East Meets West American Writers Review.