On August 26, after eight months of searching, it was announced that Steve Powell would be Orange County Library System’s new Library Director/CEO. Steve, who has been an employee with OCLS since 2007, has served as Interim Director since January 2022. We sat down with Steve to give everyone a chance to get to know an already familiar face around OCLS.
Have you always lived in Orange County? Tell us how you got here.
I have only been in the central Florida area since 2003. My path to Florida transpired over 15 years. Upon my wife’s graduation from college, we started our trek south. We moved for her job or mine and made stops in Fredericksburg and Winchester, Virginia, Griffin and Fairburn, Georgia, then to Clermont, and have been in southwest Orange County for the past 10 years.
What was your very first job?
My first job was with an independent masonry contractor after finishing up 10th grade. I worked when it did not interfere with school and learned many valuable construction skills. My first “real” full-time job was in the United States Coast Guard after graduating high school.
How long have you been with OCLS? What do you enjoy about working at OCLS?
I have been at OCLS for almost 15 years. Throughout my career, I have truly enjoyed my support and leadership roles. Whether it be from facilities support or my admin positions, I made it my mission to provide staff with the opportunities and resources they needed to deliver outstanding library services. Additionally, I appreciate teamwork, and I have been privileged to work alongside phenomenal people with values that align with mine to deliver exceptional public service.
What are your priorities as CEO?
My priorities as CEO are to listen to the community to understand how the library fits into their lives. Staff knows what the community wants and I hope to hear all of their thoughtful ideas as well. We will then determine and implement ways to meet those needs through access, materials and services. More specifically, I intend to meet with county and city leaders to build relationships so that we can work together to better literacy and learning across the entire community.
What was the last book you read, and what book are you reading now?
Describe an unforgettable library moment.
I cannot narrow it down to one. First, the Saturday morning in February 2014 Mr. Melrose entered the Melrose Center with staff lining both sides of the entryway was incredible. OCLS opened and maintains the best-in-class technology center in a public library. The second was the July 2015 opening of the Chickasaw Branch. For both of these projects, I was fortunate to be the library’s construction manager. Lastly, was my appointment to interim and now director of OCLS – a true honor.
Are there any libraries you look to for inspiration as you think about what the future looks like for OCLS?
Yes. Seattle Public Library is a model to follow in terms of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, and San Francisco Public Library’s mobile outreach services via four vehicles are an admirable example of mobile services. I also look to Library Journal’s Library of the Year, the Jerry Kline Impact Award and ALA’s I Love My Librarian Award finalists and winners for inspiration.
What does a strong library look like to you?
A strong library is in the hearts and minds of the community. The library is a prominent provider of educational, cultural, recreational and informational resources and services that improve people’s lives and the community’s well-being.
Why do you think everyone should get a library card?
Because public libraries are a welcoming and safe space for everyone to enter and explore the endless world of information online, and in digital and physical forms. A public library card, on its own, opens doors to literacy and learning that other cards in your pocket cannot. And it’s free.