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The History of Orange County Library System: Glenn Miller and the Orlando Public Library Expansion

The History of Orange County Library System: Glenn Miller and the Orlando Public Library Expansion

Glenn Miller got his start in libraries at an early age. At 16, he was a clerk at Saginaw Public Library in Michigan, and during college, he worked as a reference assistant. After graduating, Miller became the city librarian in Southfield, MI before he and his family moved to Winter Park, Florida, where he accepted the role as Orlando Public Library’s assistant director in 1969.

November 1970 ushered in an era of change when Glenn Miller became the director of Orlando Public Library, where he served for 25 years until retirement in 1995. Miller’s focus remained on finding ways to better serve the average library user whom he referred to as “Harry Smith.”

John Martin, former branch administrator, reflected, “Glenn Miller was all about delivering the best library service possible to the library user in the most cost-effective manner … He looked at everything in the light of what it would mean to Harry Smith. Every program, every service, every clever idea was met with the question, ‘What’s this got to do with library service?’ And if there was not a clear answer, then he would not buy into it.” Some of his biggest accomplishments include installing drive-through pickup windows, starting Books-by-Mail and the creation of a special library tax district to provide the library with security and autonomy separate from the county.

“He believed in libraries and their importance in communities. He sought ways in which to bring the library to the user rather than the user to the library way before we had internet access to our services,” Debbie Moss, former assistant director shared.

Due to the rapidly growing population in Central Florida, it became apparent that the Orlando Public Library building was unable to meet the public’s needs. Miller’s commitment to serving the community helped facilitate the Pull for the Library campaign, which encouraged residents to vote in favor of a proposed library expansion. On September 9, 1980, the referendum passed by a 58% margin.

I'm Pulling for the Library

The groundbreaking ceremony took place on December 7, 1982. Construction soon followed. Adding 230,000 square feet to the building was quite an undertaking. A pamphlet titled “How to Preserve Your Tranquility During the Expansion of the Orlando Public Library” was provided to customers with helpful information such as alternate parking, nearby branches and how to use Books-by-Mail.

On April 6, 1986, the grand opening celebration welcomed visitors to the library we use today. One notable detail included in the design was automated doors to the entrance on Central Boulevard.

Other additions included story rooms for the Children’s Library, meeting rooms and permanent locations for many departments. John Martin shared, “[Miller] wanted to build a building that would last forever but would be flexible for the changing needs over time.”

In an interview about the library’s grand opening, Glenn Miller said, “Service to people is the force behind the building. Our primary mission hasn’t changed, isn’t going to change. I want this library to maintain and enhance its credibility with the people who are paying for it by giving them the information they need. Budgets and buildings aren’t the important thing. Harry Smith is the important thing.” During his tenure, Miller was known for his innovation as he sought to expand the library and develop services. Even today, he’s remembered. Bob Tessier, former OCLS comptroller said, “Due to the internet, library service has changed dramatically since Mr. Miller retired in 1995. Books-by-Mail continues to be a very popular service and one that’s still not offered by many large public libraries. We have all grown accustomed to retailers delivering items to our doorstep within days, but OCLS was providing that service over 40 years ago. We have Glenn Miller to thank for that.”

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Memorial Day Closing

Orange County Library System will be closed Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. The library system will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, May 28. View a complete list of holiday closures >