WILKES-BARRE — There are just 19 days left in the Osterhout Free Library’s “Love Your Library’ campaign and just over half of the $50,000 goal has been reached.
The library, which has been a staple in the Wyoming Valley community for more than 133 years, is reaching out to the community to help reach the goal by midnight on March 31.
However, Friday morning, a total of $27,500 has been raised, leaving $22,500 left to go.
Amber Loomis, Director of Development and Community Relations for the Osterhout, said donations received from the “Love Your Library” campaign will help add additional Mobile Hotspots to the collection and help fund a new family restroom in the Children’s Wing.
“Access to the Internet is something most of us take for granted,” Loomis said. “In 2021, we launched a Mobile Hotspot Lending Program with a total of seven devices. Since launching the program, we have quickly learned that hundreds of households in Luzerne County simply do not have Internet access at home.”
Loomis said the Mobile Hotspots have become very popular at the library and each device is consistently checked out and a waiting list has formed.
“Since starting the Mobile Hotspot Lending program, the Osterhout Free Library has provided 76 individuals/families with Internet access at home, 46 renewed the lending period and 66 individuals were placed on the wait-list,” Loomis said. “Adding additional Mobile Hotspots will not only allow the library to serve more families in need, but will also help get that waiting list down.”
The Osterhout Free Library, located at 71 South Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, has been providing exceptional services and programs to residents and visitors for more than 133 years.
Loomis said when most people think “library” they think books. And while that is certainly true, Loomis explained that these days books take different shapes, such as e-books and audio books.
“More than just books, libraries offer the community free access to a wealth of information that they often can’t find elsewhere, whether online, in print or in person,” Loomis said. “Whether they’re looking for the latest best-seller, access to the Internet to apply for employment and complete school work, or going for story times and community programming, the Osterhout Free Library is a center of community for thousands of individuals and families right here in Luzerne County.”
The Borland Family — Kim, Ruth, Sarah and Joe — are the chairs for this vital fundraiser and they said they are proud to support their library and community.
“The Osterhout Free Library is an essential resource for our community and that has been proven more than ever over the past two years,” the Borlands said in a family statement. “The Library has provided essential services like access to the internet, support for school work, and even the simple joy of escaping from the realities of the world into books and other media.”
The Borlands also said that the Library has been an integral part of the lives of many of the Valley’s families from childhood on through adulthood, with the first connections starting in the Children’s Wing which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“Many a child’s love of reading started within the walls of that very special space, including those of our family,” the Borlands stated. “The Library needs the continued support of the community to continue in its increasingly important mission providing a safe space for everyone to learn and grow.”
Family restroom planned
Loomis said a family restroom is also on the wish list for the Osterhout Free Library, as the Ken L. Pollock Children’s Wing celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. In order to reduce costs, a restroom and full basement were both eliminated from the final construction plans.
Since that time, the Osterhout has increasingly missed the ability to have a restroom for children and families within the children’s library. Loomis explained that in order to utilize a restroom, children must venture from the children’s library and walk several hundred feet to a men’s restroom, that is in a rather hidden alcove, or a lady’s room that is down a dimly lit hallway.
Rick Miller, Executive Director for the Osterhout Free Library, said neither restroom is up to modern accessibility standards, so maneuvering a wheelchair, stroller, or multiple children is nearly impossible.
“The library is located in an urban environment with all the positive and negative traits that come along with that fact,” Miller said. “Having a family friendly restroom that is ADA compliant and accessible from within the children’s library within direct staff vision, will make the library more comfortable and more family friendly.”
Miller and Loomis said that the Osterhout only exists because of the generosity of its original benefactor, Isaac Osterhout.
“Ever since, we have been able to prosper and flourish because so many people have donated their time, expertise, and personal support to ensure that the people of Wilkes-Barre, and indeed Luzerne County, have the best possible library services,” Miller said. “For example, the Osterhout Free Library was one of the very first public libraries to create a dedicated space for children. Prior to that, libraries treated children as small adults. We will continue to prosper and provide a unique learning environment for children and families if the community continues to support us.”
how to help
If you would like to donate to the Osterhout Free Library to help fund Mobile Hotspots and/or the Family Restroom in the Children’s Wing, you can donate online by visiting — osterhout.info — and send a check or money order to:
Osterhout Free Library
71 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
Or, contact Amber Loomis, Director of Development and Community Relations, at 570-823-0156, ext. 218, or email at — [email protected]
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.