As part of our 100 Year Celebration, we plan to share stories about the history of Orange County Library System in each issue of Books & Beyond. We’ll focus on one decade at a time, and this month, we take a look at the 1930s – a particularly difficult time for everyone, including the library.
Following the stock market crash of 1929, the library struggled with budget cuts that resulted in the closure of one of its three branches and discontinuation of county-wide service. Although many found it frustrating, the library limited its service to City of Orlando residents. It also reduced operating hours and salaries, among other cost-cutting measures.
In a report from a local newspaper, head librarian Olive Brumbaugh said that the library would, “cancel all outstanding orders for books, curtail purchase of new books, cut salary schedules materially. Postpone the training of apprentices, which would be a saving of $1,200 for the remainder of the year.”
Despite these hardships and more over the course of the next 10 years, the library endured. It even managed to open a new branch in 1938 and close out 1939 with 18,000 more volumes in its collection than it had in 1929. I think that’s a testament to the resilience of libraries and their dedication to serving their communities, even during the toughest times.
You can read more about what things were like for Orange County Library System (known then, simply, as Albertson Public Library) on in this article. I also encourage you to visit orlandomemory.info, our website dedicated to collecting and preserving our community’s history. Our staff has worked hard over the past year to document as much of our library’s history as we could verify by poring through our archives, digging up old newspaper clippings and talking to people who have oral histories to share about what the library was like in the past. At that site, you’ll find scans of the library’s old annual reports, photos of the library from over the years, interviews with library staff and customers and more. And it’s not just focused on the library – the site contains information on people, places and experiences from all over Orange County.
But do it when you have a little time on your hands – you may find yourself going down a rabbit hole of local ephemera, nostalgia and culture you’re not going to find anywhere else.