If there’s one thing our library system has always excelled at, it’s innovation. As we celebrate our 100 years, I’ve enjoyed taking the time to explore how the library has evolved during each decade we’ve been in existence.
This month in Books & Beyond, we look back at the 1940s. The country was coming out of a financially trying time, and war was raging in Europe. In December 1941, the United States entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Albertson Public Library served as a War Information Center, an information hub that connected the battlefront and the homefront. The library also supported the community during wartime by offering courses to help people be more prepared for a drawn-out war effort – according to the 1941 annual report, the Albertson Library offered courses on first aid, home hygiene, nurses aid and automobile repair, among other things.
Despite this added responsibility, the library also continued to offer its popular programs, like the Summer Reading Club and Saturday Story Hours. It even branched into radio, offering weekly programs on local stations.
Toward the end of the decade, we can also see the library as we know it today taking shape – in 1948, the Albertson Library was celebrating its 25th birthday, and it outlined the vision for the future. Among the library’s long-term goals: Better service for special groups; an increase in educational programs for adults; expansion of the system to open new branches, introduce a bookmobile and provide service in schools; additional technology, including projectors, a record player and a radio; salaries commensurate with American Library Association standards; a solution to expand the main library, which was growing cramped; and expansion of service beyond the city of Orlando to the entire county.
By 1949, the library had already managed to accomplish two of those long-term goals – it officially became the first county-wide library system in the state of Florida when the Sorosis of Orlando Woman’s Club donated $6,000 to purchase a bookmobile that allowed the Albertson Library to bring the library to the people. In its first year, it made 24 community stops and nine school stops across Orange County.
Seventy five years later, we’re still bringing new tools to the table to meet the needs of a changing world. In the 1940s, it was record players and radios. In the 2020s, it’s Wi-Fi hotspots and virtual reality stations.
To read more about the library’s past, visit Orlando Memory, our website dedicated to the history of Orange County.