In 1923, the city of Orlando was less than 100 years old. Founded in the 1840s as a town called Jernigan, the city had nearly doubled in size by the 1920s, and a building boom was underway. The Angebilt Hotel, which is still located on Orange Avenue, opened to the public in 1923. The Orlando Utilities Commission was established. Tinker Field was dedicated. The Albertson Public Library, the city’s first official public library, opened its doors for the first time, too.
Albertson Public Library has long since been replaced by the Orlando Public Library, and over the years, we’ve grown to serve the entire county, not just the city of Orlando. A lot has changed, but the mission of the library, at its heart, has always been the same – to support and enrich the community.
When Sorosis of Orlando first started its library campaign, the focus was mostly on books. Books are still a centerpiece of what we do, but these days, our scope is wider. Today, we support literacy, learning and a more educated community by creating experiences that give adults and children new insights into a vast and changing world. Whether it’s by introducing a first grader to their first coding challenge, helping a new immigrant learn the ropes of the English language, or giving a young adult a chance to meet their favorite author, we’re opening minds and changing lives.
And we’re doing it without charging a monthly membership fee, expecting people to make a purchase once they walk in the door, or asking to hold a credit card deposit. The library is still the one place where people can come to gather and participate, no transactions required.
As we approach our 100th birthday, I find myself thinking just how much would be missing from this community if nobody had gone to bat to get a library started in Orlando. And it makes me think just how important it is that this library system continues to exist, so it can help people navigate an increasingly complex world. So I hope you’ll join me in not just celebrating the past 100 years, but in looking ahead to the next century. On January 7, we’ll be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Orlando Public Library to rededicate the building – and the system – to the community. Nobody can predict what Orange County will look like in 2123, but it’s hard for me to imagine that there won’t be a place for Orange County Library System in its future.