If you’re a regular library user, you’ve probably heard mention of the Friends of the Orange County Library System, often referred to simply as the Friends, and wondered who they are and what they do. The organization was founded in 1949 and over the years, the Friends of the Orange County Library System have remained a key stakeholder in library operations.
Since its beginning, the Friends of the Orange County Library System has displayed a commitment to supporting library services through a legacy of giving. Our Orlando Memory website shares that in 1951, the Friends purchased a drive-up book return for the Albertson Public Library. In 1952 they donated a tape recorder, and in the following years other important contributions included listening centers for the Fine Arts and Children’s Departments, microfilm of local newspapers and equipment for graphic arts.
As the years went on, the Friends held their “Ye Olde Book Sale,” and between 1971 and 1973, thousands of dollars were raised by selling donated books. The funds were used to purchase equipment and support programs and special events held at the library. The Friends also donated many books which were added to the library’s circulating collection. Keeping tradition alive, the Friends continue to host book sales during the year and have recently begun pop-up sidewalk sales at library branches throughout the county.
Today, the Friends’ vision remains the same. “Our goal is to support the library by enhancing services, increasing public awareness and use of the library and encouraging giving for the benefit of the library. Support raised by the Friends helps the Orange County Library System to improve the quality and scope of its services,” shared Melissa Stillman, current Friends of Orange County Library System President. “We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy the privileges of information access, entertaining events and education found in a great library system.”
Just recently, the Friends provided Eatonville Branch with an additional AWE station – a bilingual computer learning station that provides award-winning educational software to help children develop early literacy skills. Additionally, the Friends provided books for the Head Start program – an early childhood education program for children from low-income households within Orange County. This donation ensured that many children have books to call their own. The Friends also sponsor meals and books for the library’s Prime Time Family Reading Time program. This six-week reading and discussion series inspires thought and conversation between children and families.
“When I joined the Friends of the Library, I felt like I’d found my people – fellow book lovers and library super fans who were willing to give back to their library through their money, time and influence. When I travel, I enjoy visiting other libraries, and it makes me appreciate even more what an excellent library system we have in Orange County,” Melissa shared.
The Friends of the Library are people who know that a community with a first-rate library is a better place to live. “We’d love to see young professionals and young families becoming Friends of the Library members and getting involved in making a difference through the library,” Melissa said. Membership has its perks too! Benefits include monthly mailings of the Books & Beyond magazine, discounts on bookstore and gift shop purchase and member-only access to book sale preview days, all while experiencing the satisfaction of supporting your local, public library.