On August 8, 2001, West Oaks Branch opened its doors for the very first time. Twenty years later, the branch continues to provide integral library services to the residents of Ocoee and Western Orange County.
West Oaks Branch began as one of several library branch locations that opened in the early 2000s, under Orange County Library System’s ambitious branch development plan. Along with new library locations Alafaya, South Creek and Winter Garden, West Oaks was designed from the ground up to be a modern library facility, complete with a drive-up window and public computer access. The community welcomed the new branch with high enthusiasm, as more than 2,300 residents visited the branch during its grand opening celebration. Since then, the branch has served hundreds of thousands of Orange County library customers.
In January 2015, Orange County Library System’s genealogy collection was relocated to West Oaks Branch from Orlando Public Library. This marked the first time that the collection’s nearly 40,000 volumes of archival material had ever been relocated, going back to the library’s founding in 1922. One of the founding principles of the library was to provide a public space for residents to explore the genealogical volumes gifted by Captain Charles Albertson. That legacy continues through the innovative approaches to genealogical research provided by West Oaks staff.
West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center employs a full time Genealogy Specialist, Allison Ryall, who offers weekly events to library customers. Allison teaches a range of basic and beginning genealogy research techniques, including how to interpret DNA results, census records, vital statistics, land records, probate records and immigration records. Additionally, a series of classes are regularly offered on a variety of popular genealogical websites including Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Allison also provides one-on-one assistance to customers who have in-depth genealogical research questions through the library’s Book-A-Pro service. This widespread attention to genealogical inquiries has garnered the West Oaks team a significant amount of praise from customers and industry associations alike. Most recently, the branch was awarded the Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services Award from the American Library Association.
During this unprecedented time, West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center continues to provide its unique and expansive selection of genealogy services with virtual events and online assistance. To explore these genealogical resources for yourself, visit ocls.info/genealogy. Visit West Oaks Branch anytime in August as they celebrate their 20th Anniversary with a community quilt unveiling, scavenger hunt, book bingo and more.
To learn more about West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center, as well as a variety of other notable topics in Orange County Library System history, visit orlandomemory.info.