In 1949, the Albertson Public Library board received a proposal for a bookmobile that would reach residents in outlying areas of the county. Believing that no other service would be a greater benefit to the community, Sorosis of Orlando Woman’s Club raised $6,000 to purchase a school bus and convert it into a mobile library that would make scheduled stops and distribute library materials across Orange County. To maintain the vehicle’s staff, collection and upkeep, the Friends of the Library sponsored a bill in the state legislature that would allow funds to be appropriated for the operation of the bookmobile, and with help from Sorosis members, the passage was secured. When asked why the bookmobile was so important to the club, Susan Piner, current First Vice President of Sorosis, said, “The city of Orlando was always rather spread out and transportation wasn’t easy back in those days. To get the books into the hands of people that wanted them but didn’t have access was very important.”
The bookmobile made its inaugural run on December 1, 1949, launching the first county-wide library service provided in Florida. A schedule was established stating when and where the bookmobile would be located throughout the week to ensure the entire community was being reached. These bookmobile stops would later inspire branch locations including the Alafaya, North Orange, Hiawassee and Windermere branches and gave rise to Books by MAYL (Materials Access from Your Library), a service still in operation today that delivers library materials directly to customers throughout Orange County. After receiving an anonymous donation in 1959, Traveling Libraries were added to the library’s extension division, further expanding its county-wide reach. As branch locations were created and home delivery services proved to be successful, bookmobile services were reduced and eventually discontinued in 1979.
Orange County Library System has since expanded to 15 locations across the county, but the need for mobile services remains. Thankfully, the library recently received a timely and generous gift from a familiar group of women. On January 7, 2023, Sorosis of Orlando Woman’s Club announced their donation of $100,000 at the 100 Year Celebration Kickoff event held at Orlando Public Library. “It’s very exciting to see that we might have the ability to check out books in a park or in a parking lot or in the extended areas of the county that don’t have a branch,” Piner remarked. In honor of their 1949 bookmobile donation to the library, Sorosis of Orlando’s endowment will be used to bring back mobile services to Orange County Library System, making a lasting impact on the library’s next 100 years of service to county residents.