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Orange County Library System Celebrates An Amazing 100 Years!

The library system is reflecting on the past and looking to the future.

The year was 1923; the Model-T was the most popular car on the road, the Disney Brothers Studio was founded in California and our country was in the third year of prohibition, making lawbreakers out of millions of Americans. It was also the year that the Albertson Public Library first opened its doors to the Orlando community on November 8, the same day that Adolf Hitler launched his first attempt at seizing power in Germany with a failed coup in Munich that came to be known as the “Beer-Hall Putsch.” 

It’s hard to fathom, but before 1923 there was no permanent library in Central Florida. The only option was a small circulating collection of books owned and loaned by the Sorosis of Orlando Woman’s Club, a philanthropic women’s organization that still supports education and local charities today.

Celebrating 100 Years and Counting

The Orlando County Library System kicked off its 100-Year Celebration on January 7 at the downtown Orlando Public Library, featuring a ribbon-cutting, live music and a rededication ceremony of the library to the community for the next 100 years. 

If you missed that celebration in January, never fear. The Orange County Library System has special events planned throughout the year, including programs that illuminate the rich history and look to the future. There are fiber arts projects, virtual reality experiences, a signature author series, and fabulous events for all ages. Where else can you attend a wide variety of events like “Meet A Gatorland Wrangler,” “Toddler Time,” “Storybook Fun,” “Adult Karaoke,” “Language Learning” and even classes in citizenship and cuisine? And the best part, these offerings are free.

Speaking of free, one of the many highlights is the announcement from the library system that it is now officially “fine free.” You read that correctly. The library will suspend all late fines and cancel all overdue charges.

The library also announced that thanks to a $100,000 donation from Sorosis of Orlando Woman’s Club, plans are in place to expand mobile services to increase access to library services and materials. As Central Florida continues to develop and expand, many people don’t have easy access to one of the library’s 15 locations. Thanks to this generous donation, plans are in place to purchase two book bicycles to bring books and other services into the community and reintroduce a bookmobile.

“As our county grows, we need to look for new and innovative ways to deliver services, especially to areas with transportation needs and other challenges,” said Library Director and CEO Steve Powell. “A bookmobile will go a long way toward addressing those challenges. We are grateful to Sorosis of Orlando for this very generous donation.” 

As the community celebrates and reflects on the past 100 years, one can’t help but feel gratitude to the Sorosis Orlando Woman’s Club and all those who had the vision to open the first library. The Orlando County Library System is here to serve the Central Florida community, helping people navigate an increasingly complex world.

Be sure to mark your calendar for November 8 and stop by your local library to celebrate 100 years of service to the community. One can’t help but wonder what the celebration will look like in another hundred years.

“Nobody can predict what Orange County will look like in 2123,” said Powell. “But it’s hard for me to imagine that there won’t be a place for Orange County Library System in its future.”

To check out all Orange County Library System’s 100-Year Celebration events, visit ocls.info/100-year-celebration.

*Information and photos provided by the Orlando County Library System.*

Facts About the Orange County Library System

· The System comprises 15 locations, one main library (Orlando Public Library), and 14 branch locations.

· They named the first library the Albertson Public Library in honor of Captain Charles L. Albertson, a retired Police Inspector of New York City and a winter resident of Orlando. Captain Albertson offered his collection to the City of Orlando on the condition that it furnish a suitable building to house it.

· In 1949, The Friends of the Orange County Library System, a group of citizens interested in supporting libraries by raising funds and awareness, formed in Orlando.

· The current Orlando Public Library building was dedicated on a rainy Sunday afternoon on August 7, 1966, and later expanded in the 1980s. Today, the landmark 290,000-square-foot building encompasses an entire city block. 

· The Orlando Public Library was designed by John M. Johansen, who specialized in Brutalism, a bold architectural concept popularized in the 1950s featuring unfinished concrete for interior and exterior surfaces. It remains an architectural landmark and is one of the last buildings remaining in this style open for public use. Johansen called his design a “composition in monolithic concrete.

· The Orange County Library System provides Information, Imagination and Inspiration to over four million visitors annually. Books are available in print, CD audiobooks, and downloadable formats compatible with mobile devices.

· The library can deliver certain items right to your home—free of charge—using MAYL (Materials Access from Your Library). Patrons may also check out new and classic DVDs, music CDs and even stream music and movies for free via hoopla.

· The library also offers RBDigital Magazines, which provides free access to over 250 popular e-magazine titles from your home or local Internet cafe.

· The 26,000-square-foot Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation & Creativity is located on the second floor of the Main Library. It includes audio, film and photography studios, flight and driving simulators, a game design lab, a fabrication lab with 3-D printers, a laser cutter and more.

Written by T. Michele Walker

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