History of the Orange County Library System

History of the Orange County Library System

Created: May 20, 2008

Before the Orlando Public Library came into existence, the Sorosis Club of Orlando maintained a circulating library for its members. This collection was initially on the second floor of the old Armory building on Court Street and was subsequently moved to the Knox building at Pine and Court streets. On May 11, 1920, Orlando citizens showed by a vote of 417 to 19 that they wanted a library and were willing to pay for it.

Captain Charles l. Albertson, a retired police inspector of New York City, and a winter resident of Orlando, had for many years been collecting books at his home in Waverly, New York. In November 1920, Captain Albertson offered his collection to the city of Orlando, on the condition that it furnish a suitable building to house it. The contract between the city of Orlando and Captain Albertson provided that Orlando would accept the gift of the Albertson Collection and furnish the library building; that the library should be known as the Albertson Public Library; that Captain Albertson should be Advisory Superintendent of the Library throughout his lifetime; and that Orlando should suitably maintain the library. 

In early 1949, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce presented a proposal for a bookmobile to the board of the Albertson Public Library. The ladies of the Orlando Sorosis Club determined that a bookmobile would allow the library to bring books to the small communities of Orange County and spearheaded a drive to raise funds for the purchase of the vehicle. By November 1949, it was on the road! 

The Friends of the Library also came to be in 1949. An announcement published in the Sentinel Star on February 27, 1949, states that the Winter Park - Orlando Zonta Club would be meeting for the purpose of sponsoring a new organization to be called the "Friends of the Library".

By 1959 a committee of Jaycees evaluated the library and determined that the Albertson Public Library was no longer able to meet the needs of its staff or the community. Preparation for the 1966 building began in 1962 when construction of a new Main library was approved by the Orlando voters, and the city acquired additional land adjacent to the original site. In 1964, the library moved to temporary headquarters at 905 North Orange Avenue, the Albertson building was demolished, and construction began. The new Orlando Public Library building was dedicated on August 7, 1966. The architect was John M. Johansen of New Canaan, Connecticut. He called his design a "composition in monolithic concrete."

The library closed its temporary location on July 23 to move into the new building. The Orlando Public Library was dedicated on a rainy Sunday afternoon, August 7, 1966. The 50th Anniversary Souvenir booklet provides details.

As early as 1974 the need to expand the Orlando Public Library was recognized. In 1978, the library secured from the Orlando City Council a commitment for the whole block to the west of the existing site. In 1980 the voters approved the sale of $22 million in bonds for construction.

In March 1985, the 1966 building was closed. The expansion opened to the public April 8, 1985. Work on renovating the old building began immediately. A grand opening celebration for the expansion and renovation took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.

The 290,000 square foot building fills a whole city block. It was built with 19,000 cubic yards of concrete. A major challenge given to architect Duane Stark and his team was to design an expansion that would blend seamlessly with the original 1966 Johansen design. The measure of Stark's success is quite apparent in the exterior of the building. The color and texture of the new exterior walls were matched to the rough hewn cedar pattern of the original poured-concrete walls.

Johansen's Orlando Library
Article about the Orlando Public Library - Architectural Record, June 1967.

Architecture for Florida Living
Photographic review in the 1968 premiere edition. 

Library Expansion Open House - May 29, 1985
Flyer handed out at the grand opening of the newly expanded Library building on May 29, 1985.

Orlando Public Library Expansion Celebration 1986
The Orlando Public Library expansion Celebration took place on Sunday, April 6, 1986.

Orlando Public Library - Marking 50 Years of Library Service
Library History booklet created in 1973 for the 50th Anniversary of the Orlando Public Library.

Orlando Public Library - Orlando Sentinel - Florida Magazine 6 April 1986
The Florida Magazine section of the Orlando Sentinel published on 6 April 1986 heralded the opening of the new edition to the library.

History of the Orlando Public Library; History of the Albertson Public Library; Orlando Public Library History


Comments (3)

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Donna_B's picture

Thanks, Bibliobabe!  We think this is going to be a fabulous project!

jkunk24's picture

I am just now noticing that screename and I am loving it.

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