WEST PITTSTON — The West Pittston Library was featured in “Spotlight” in 1992 during National Library Week. Now, 24 years later, the Exeter Avenue destination is still a beloved place in the borough.
The West Pittston Library is known for its humorous signs. It’s the oldest library in Luzerne County, celebrating its 142nd birthday later this year. Activities and events at the library have been bigger and better than ever.
It was also first located in the city of Pittston.
It was September 1873, when a group of people from West Pittston held a meeting and the Pittston Library Association was born. Stock shares were purchased at $10 each. Two months later, a charter was approved by the Luzerne County Court, and the library was formed.
The library officially opened at the post office on Main Street in Pittston. There, two book cases were dedicated to the library where the postmaster served as the librarian.
In addition to stock holders, the public was permitted to use the library at a cost of $4 per year.
Current librarian Anne Bramblett Barr started working at the library in March 2009.
“There’s a sense of pride in that — definitely the residents of West Pittston consider themselves a library town,” Bramblett Barr said. “In the age of consolidation, this is what the community wants to retain.”
Move to West Pittston
The library was housed at the Pittston Post Office from 1873 to 1896. During the following three years, the library transformed from a private to public institution. In 1899 the library moved to West Pittston, to the Brune Block Building, on the corner of Exeter and Wyoming avenues until 1922.
That year, the county converted the Brune Block Building into a bridge terminal, forcing the association, with help from the Women’s Club of West Pittston to find a solution. Together, they purchased the Ferguson building from A.B. Brown’s estate and moved to that location in 1924, where the library still remains.
After extensive restoration projects — one in 1930 and one in 1961 — the library suffered severe damage during flooding from 1972’s Hurricane Agnes. The entire basement was destroyed, including more than 2,200 books, an estimated $50,000 in damage.
The library was revamped after suffering approximately $120,000 of damage and lost around $500,000 in inventory due to Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Nearly five feet of water seeped into the first floor.
The library was restored after both disasters.
“We got lucky with insurance,” Bramblett Barr said. “Luckily FEMA assisted us with helping to repurchase furniture and books.”
Another move on hold
According to a story in the Sunday Dispatch in 2013, the library announced it would make another move — to the former American Legion building at 316 Linden St. A community center was to be added.
The move was put on hold in 2011 after the flood. Following the storm, the library temporarily was relocated to a former Blockbuster in the Insalaco Shopping Center on Wyoming Avenue.
During this time, Clifford Melberger, who was to originally donate the land for the proposed library, provided storage for all the library’s materials.
Many librarians served
In 1992, Barbara Ries was the librarian. Janet Kolmansperger and Lillian Hanczyz were assistants.
Kolmansperger (formerly Burke) was assistant librarian in the early 1990s and worked there part time until 2005. She said she helped serve customers and assisted customers with attaining books if the library didn’t have them. She worked there for about six years, she said.
“It was a very lively library,” she said. “It was good — everyone was kind and good there.”
Kolmansperger said she accepted the job as a librarian after someone asked her. She enjoyed reading, so it was a perfect fit, she said.
In 2006, Kolmansperger was named West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Marshal.
When Bramblett Barr arrived at the library, there weren’t many programs offered. Today, she said the library has more than 300 programs per year geared toward children and adults. Its inventory includes more than 12,000 items such as books, DVDs, magazines and audio books.
“That is what a library is now,” Bramblett Barr said. “It’s not just a book depository, it’s a community center. When I started, we had an adult book club, story time and the summer reading program. That was it.”
Bramblett Barr said one of the most popular, and beneficial, events the library offers is its summer reading program. This year the theme is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” Youth Services Coordinator Summer Belles offers fun, educational activities throughout the summer to prepare students for the school year.
Registration for the program begins at 11 a.m. Friday, June 24.
Most recently, the library formed the Rev. W.R. Harshaw Society, named after the former president of the library board.
A donation of at least $1,000 annually to the West Pittston Library can make anyone part of the society. Members of the society will be part of a leadership group on behalf of the library.
For more information about the West Pittston Library or to make a donation, visit www.wplibrary.com or call 570-654-9847.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick