The Orange County Library System (OCLS) is a public library system located in the Orlando area of Central Florida. Its headquarters are at the Orlando Public Library in Downtown Orlando located at 101 E. Central Blvd. Orlando, FL 32801. The System is made up of 16 total locations, one main library (Orlando Public Library) and 15 branch locations. The Orange County Library System is a 501(c)3 organization.
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 the intersection of Pine and Court Street. On May 11, 1920, Orlando citizens showed by a vote of 417 to 19 that they wanted a public 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 1924, the Booker T. Washington Branch of the Albertson Library was opened in 1924 to service the African American community of West Orlando. This branch library was originally established in the former rectory of an Episcopal church. Eddie T. Jackson would assume the role as librarian, making her Orlando’s first African American librarian, and would serve as such until her retirement in 1946. The library was relocated to a new building in 1954 and would stay in that building until 1984, when it was incorporated into the Washington Park Library in the Lila Mitchell Community Center.
Preparation for the new 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 until the Albertson building was demolished and construction began. The Orlando Public Library 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.”
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. At this time a special taxing district was also created, which provides funds for the library.
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 April 6, 1986.
The 290,000-square-foot (27,000 m2) 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.
There are 15 branches located around Orange County and one main location, the Orlando Public Library. Some of the services they offer include gaming, programs, and computer classes taught in the English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole languages.