The Osceola County Library began in 1914 when a group of Kissimmee ladies donated $52 each to fund a library. Using their donations along with additional funds collected from other citizens, the Hart Memorial Public Library was built.
For over twenty years, from November 1968 to March 1989, the Orlando Public Library provided library service to the people of Osceola County at libraries in St. Cloud and Kissimmee and with bookmobile service to less populated areas. This post is dedicated to those years and is based on compiled information found in Orlando Public Library Annual Reports and from library publications including the Osceola County Library Service guides, Library Calendar, Footnotes, and the Friends of the Library Newsletter.
Florida State Library Report
In 1966, the Osceola County Commission appointed a citizens committee to study the need for a county library program. Based on their recommendation, the Osceola County Commission asked the Florida State Library to review their existing libraries and, also, consider their future needs. In early 1968, the Florida State Librarian submitted his report, recommending that the Osceola County Commission contract with the Orlando Public Library to provide county-wide service to the people of Osceola County.
Contract for Services
The Orlando Public Library Board entered into a contract to provide library services in Osceola County at the beginning of the 1968-1969 fiscal year. Branch libraries would be established in Kissimmee and St. Cloud and bookmobile service would be provided to the less populated areas of the county.
The front page of the November 1968 Footnotes publication announced the details of the new Orlando Public Library and the Orange-Osceola Library System.
Beginning November 1st, all Orange County libraries began issuing free library cards to Osceola County residents. The Kissimmee library was moved from the Hart Memorial building to a rented store building downtown, and the St. Cloud branch remained in the same building as the Veteran’s Memorial Library.
The First Year
The 1968-1969 Orlando Public Library Annual Report includes a report on the first year of service.
The first year of providing library service to Osceola County by contract with the Osceola County Commission has been most successful.
-Use of main library and its branches in Orlando and Orange County is appreciated.View additional information pulled from annual reports from 1967-1979.
-Branch libraries in Kissimmee and St. Cloud are growing rapidly and with the help of the main library collection are beginning to fill to a larger degree the library needs in both communities.
-Use of the bookmobile has been slow in developing but is definitely a worth-while service.
-The cooperation received from officials and residents of Osceola County has been most helpful and is greatly appreciated.
The 1970-1971 Orlando Public Library and Orange-Osceola County Annual Report is the first to show information on number of registered borrowers and materials borrowed by Osceola residents, and revenue received by the Orlando Public Library for providing library services to Osceola County. Excerpts of other reports show a steady increase in all areas.
1970-1971 Annual Report
Registered borrowers Osceola County Residents – 5,018
Materials borrowed by Osceola County Residents – 52,849
Revenue Osceola County Appropriation – $80,000
State Aid for Osceola County – $8,044
The 1972-1973 Annual Report showed that the number of materials borrowed by Osceola County Residents more than doubled the amount borrowed in the 1970-1971 period.
1972-1973 Annual Report
Registered borrowers Osceola County Residents – 6,197
Materials borrowed by Osceola County Residents – 118,562
Revenue Osceola County Appropriation – $101,800
State Aid for Osceola County – $7,606
The increases in all the tracked categories continued through the last annual report we have at this time – 1978-1979
1978-1979 Annual Report
Registered Borrowers – 11,539
Materials borrowed by Osceola County Residents – 262,260
Revenue Osceola County Appropriation – $169,612
State Aid for Osceola County – $19,873
Osceola County Library Advisory Committee
The 1972-1973 Orlando Public Library and Orange-Osceola County Annual Report includes the names of the Osceola County Library Advisory Committee: Mrs. Murray W. (Rae) Overstreet, Jr., Chairman; Mrs. Paul E. (Annie-Laurie) Kirkpatrick, Mrs. J. J. Griffin, Jr., Mrs. Jerry (Esther L.) Ivey, Mr. William T. Wallis, Mr. Robert Fisk, Mr. William Prather.
The members of the advisory committee remained the same with minor changes through 1979:
1974-1975 Mrs. Edward (Celia S.) Cowley replaced Mrs. J. J. Griffin
1976-1977 Robert Fisk became Chairman and Jerry Rogers replaced William T. Wallis
1978-1979 Robert Gee replaced Jerry Rogers
Library Branches and Bookmobile Service
The former orange OCLS Library Station was repurposed to be used as the Osceola County Bookmobile. In 1971, a list was created of all the bookmobile stops in Orange and Osceola counties in alphabetical order by location. The Orange County stops are grouped first, followed by the Osceola County stops.
The seasonal Osceola County Library Service guides include the bookmobile schedules from 1972-1977 along with information on the Kissimmee and St. Cloud library hours, fees, fines and more.
In June 1977, the old orange bookmobile was retired and replaced with the much larger green and white bookmobile which accommodated almost double the number of books. The bookmobile driver and librarian, David Bailey, was assisted by Julie Standford. Because the new bookmobile was larger and heavier with almost double the books, it was not able to travel on roads in some of the harder to reach stops, so they had to be eliminated; however, Library Director Glenn Miller reminded residents that they had access to home delivery through the Books-By-Mail program.
The 1977-1979 bookmobile schedules for the Orange-Osceola-Seminole County Library System list the times and stops for each county.
In 1979, bookmobile service for Orange and Osceola counties was discontinued due to operating and staffing expenses and the popularity of the Books By Mail service.
Osceola Friends and Special Events
Library publications like the Friends of the Library Newsletter include advertisements or promotions for children’s Story Time and other programs, author programs, and Osceola Friends’ meetings, outings and events.
The Osceola Friends conducted a Book Sale in December 1980 at the Veteran’s Park on 13th Street in St. Cloud. The Friends purchased an electric typewriter for the St. Cloud Library and committed funds to buy a microfilm reader for the Kissimmee Library.
The first author event sponsored by the Osceola Friends of the Library was an “Author’s Lunch” with Florida author Patrick Smith in January 1986. The Friends also sponsored “An Evening with Robert Newton Peck” in August 1986, and co-sponsored the “Meet the Author Luncheon” with the News-Gazette in January 1987. Some of the other authors featured at Friends’ events were Florida writer David Kaufelt, Phillip H. Blackburn, and John Rothchild.
The Friends pledged $1,000, to be matched with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to purchase a 60-volume set of The Library of America for the Kissimmee and the St. Cloud libraries.
Read more about other Osceola Friends of the Library events under Images and Documents below.
As reported in the Orlando Public Library 1977-1978 Annual Report, Osceola County Commissioners considered cutting their library budget by one-third but restored the allocation after touring the Main Library and becoming more familiar with the services provided.
The following year, the annual report indicates the citizens of Osceola County disapproved of the Commissioners’ actions by approving a referendum to authorize a property tax to pay for library services and the Commissioners were not re-elected.
New Branches Proposed
It was announced in August 1987 that two new branches would open in Poinciana and Buenaventura Lakes. The two existing libraries in Kissimmee and St. Cloud would be expanded to meet the growing needs in those communities, as well.
The Osceola County Library System
In February 1989, the Osceola County Commissioners voted to sever the service contract with the Orange County Library System when it expired on March 31, 1989, and on April 1, 1989, the Osceola County Library System began operations as an independent organization offering Library service to all residents of Osceola County.
Chronological bits of information pulled from Orlando Public Library Annual Reports and the Footnotes and Friends of the Library Newsletter.
1977-1979 Orange Osceola Seminole Bookmobile Schedules
1972-1977 Osceola Library Service information
Nov. 1971-Feb. 1972 Bookmobile Schedules
March 1972-June 1972 Bookmobile Schedules
In June 1977, it was announced that the old orange bookmobile was being retired and replaced by the green and white bookmobile with space for almost double the number of books.
In 1979, the bookmobile was retired due to operating and staffing expenses and the popularity of the Books By Mail service.
From the Osceola Public Library web site.