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From the Director, May 2023

From the Director May 2023

When I look back at what things were like at the library in the 1950s, I see some similarities to the library of today – Orange County was growing, and the community needed more libraries to adequately serve its needs. In fact, the Annual Report for 1952–1953 was titled: To a Growing Community, From its Growing Library, and it reflected a library system that was working hard to keep up with demand, despite its growth to four branches in addition to the Albertson Public Library and the introduction of a bookmobile.

“The growing number of Orlando inhabitants requires an increasing degree of those cultural resources which make for social harmony through individual enrichment,” the report noted.

By 1954, the library’s Board of Trustees published a proposal calling for the expansion of the Albertson Public Library, or an additional structure on a piece of property next door. That call for a bigger library was amplified when library service was officially expanded beyond the borders of the city of Orlando, to all residents of Orange County, in 1957. By the end of the decade, the library’s circulation had grown from 338,509 in 1951 to 590,651 in 1959 – a massive leap in less than 10 years – and it had added new events, including adult educational activities, discussion groups and a film preview series.

While the landscape for libraries is dramatically different now – it’s our digital checkouts that have been growing the most over the past few years, and our event offerings are vast – we’re once again in a situation where the demand for our services is bigger than we can fulfill with our current facilities. That’s why it was so exciting for us to host a community meeting on March 27 to share plans for our upcoming Horizon West Branch, which will be situated in the Horizon West Regional Park. We were able to share a bit about what we expect the building to look like, as well as plans for the kinds of amenities we have planned – for example, an outdoor performance area, multiple meeting rooms that can be combined to create one large meeting space, training spaces and study spaces, housed in a LEED certified building that takes advantage of some of the natural beauty of the park.

We’re still in the beginning phases of this project, so we can’t commit to an opening date just yet, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to open the doors to this beautiful new library in early 2025. We hope we’ll be able to share some good news about the progress we’re making in Lake Nona soon, too.

To keep up with our Horizon West project, we’ve created a new page on our site at ocls.info/horizon-west-updates – bookmark it and check back to get the latest.

In the meantime, I’m struck by how much these words from our 1952–53 Annual Report still apply today: “Your library grows … because your library’s tap root reaches ever deeper into the nourishing necessity that a free people be an educated people. And for the attainment of a better present and future for the individual, the city, the state, the nation and the world.”

Steve Powell, Library Director/CEO, Orange County Library System