Up Close: Richard Miller

At home in the library …
There was a time when Richard “Rick” Miller envisioned himself as a teacher, but his career path took a twist one day and led him straight to the local public library. Suddenly he discovered a career that blended his love of reading with his love of teaching. As the executive director of the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, Miller is also enjoying the role the library plays in the community. You’ll see him out and about at library functions or fulfilling his duties as the system administrator for Luzerne County Library System and the administrator for the Wilkes-Barre Library District. We recently caught up with Miller to talk about life at the library, books, and the Osterhout’s second largest fundraiser of the year, the fifth annual Rooftop Party on Friday, Aug. 9. Meet Richard Miller …


When did you know you wanted to work in a library?
Actually, I always thought I wanted to be a teacher. I worked part-time in a library to supplement my income while I was substitute teaching and I really fell in love with it. I got a job in a very small, non-state aided public library (about the size of my office here). They were open three days a week, and I was the only employee. I did everything from order the books to catalog the books to check the books in and out. It was really great on-the-job training. Obviously, a library that size they didn’t have the budget to hire a professional so they took a bit of a risk and hired me and I really loved the work. I liked the service and the way that things were different every day, and I got to see how libraries were changing.
Even in the late ’90s technology was having a huge impact. The internet was starting to become popular and more widely used and it was changing libraries. It was far from the stodgy image of a quiet, “shushed” kind of place where you had to quietly read so as not to disturb other people. We were adding electronic resources and helping people get online and teaching classes, so that was really neat. I got to keep a little bit about what I liked about teaching, and gained a new perspective of libraries as well.

You’ve always been an avid reader. What do you like to read?
Usually non-fiction. I just finished a book called Coolidge by Amity Shlaes about the president. I love presidential history – that’s what I did a lot of my teaching projects on. And I just started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

You’re in good company. This place is hopping and it’s early on a Monday morning.
We always have our regulars. We have people waiting outside the door each day whether it’s for books, dvds or to use the computer lab — we’re always busy.

What’s new at the Osterhout?
We just added a new, very modern microfilm machine which blends the traditional with new technologies. You probably remember the reels of microfilm from years ago. Microfilm itself isn’t cutting edge technology, but there’s still a lot of information on it that hasn’t been added to the online world, and we have a lot of that information here. The new machines can scan it, print it, send it by email, take a file and make it into a pdf. There’s software to help you search by keywords, too.
We’re also always adding new programs. We just had a great Civil War program, and a songs from the coal mines program is coming up. We’re always adding new teen programs, and we’re taking part in the Third Friday art walk here. Next month, we’ll have live music, too.

Let’s shift gears now and talk about another branch that’s always bustling with activity — the North Branch. What new projects has the North Branch team taken on in the past year?
The air conditioning is in, and we upgraded the electrical system and we have a new roof.  I think the next big project there will be to repair the windows. We have windows that are in need of replacement and repair and some of them are stained glass from it when it was a church. It would be nice to fix them and have them looking good again.

And now it’s Rooftop Party time. Can you tell us what we can expect this year?
We’ve had the Rooftop Party on top of the Intermodal Center for several years now, and it’s always popular. It starts at 5 p.m. on a Friday, right after work, and for a modest charge you’ll enjoy food, drinks and live music. There are vendors, too, so it’s a great opportunity for businesses and local restaurants to make an impression on people. The food they donate is top quality. We’ll have everything from pizza to sandwiches and desserts and lots of good drinks. It’s always a good time with a great crowd.

And it’s something different to do on a Friday night.
Yes,  it really gives you a different perspective of the city, too. Most people park in a garage and leave and don’t think about getting to the top floor, but there’s such a beautiful breathtaking view of the city. It’s a great way to end the work week.

— julie imel


If you go:
What: The Osterhout Free Library’s 5th Annual Rooftop Party
When: Friday, Aug. 9, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Rooftop of the Intermodel Transportation Facility, downtown Wilkes-Barre (If it rains, the party moves down one level).
Tickets: $15 in advance at all library branches (available until 2 p.m., Aug. 9); $20 at the door
Information: www.osterhout.lib.pa.us, 823-0156

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