OCLS exploring options for Horizon West library

Staff at the county library system say a suitable location and potential partnerships could make the new library a reality.

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  • | 7:01 p.m. June 18, 2019
  • Southwest Orange
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Although Horizon West does not yet have its own library branch, there is one in the works.

During the Horizon West Town Hall meeting June 6, some residents asked about the possibility of Horizon West getting its own Orange County Library branch.

Although there are no immediate plans in place, the Orange County Library System confirmed it is looking at options and wants to have a location in Horizon West.

“We don’t have a hard plan right now, so we’re looking into ways we can have a presence in Horizon West,” said Erin Sullivan, public relations administrator for OCLS. “If we’re going to open, it would be something we’d need to budget for. There’s been some money set aside to explore the possibility of having a branch out there as part of our normal budgeting process. I think some of the things we’re looking for are a good location that would serve the needs of the entire community.”

Sullivan said when placing libraries, OCLS chooses locations that would be able to serve the most people. This means potential locations must be accessible, located in high-traffic areas and in an optimal place to best serve the needs of the community.

“We also need to look for something we can afford, so something that is not priced so high that we would have to sacrifice that quality of service just to have a branch opening,” Sullivan said. “We want to give people the best possible experience of a library.” 

OCLS has been looking to partner with organizations to bring pop-up libraries to fast-growing areas such as Horizon West and Lake Nona. OCLS recently partnered with the Waterleigh community to bring pop-up events closer to Horizon West.

“We had our first pop-up library event in Horizon West at the Waterleigh community clubhouse, because we’re trying to give people a taste of library programs while we wait for something to actually come together,” she said. “They’re donating space so that we can give people family-friendly events that kids and adults can enjoy together. They’re the same kind of events they’d experience at a library.”

The pop-up locations don’t offer the ability to check out materials, but OCLS wants to reach as many people as possible with these events. Sullivan said the first pop-up event in Horizon West drew 178 people.

“Right now, it’s fun events and programs, and I think there were crafts as well for kids to participate in because that’s something the libraries do,” she said. “It’s to give people a taste of the library until we can figure out how we’re going to get an actual library building in your community.”

Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said OCLS staff told her they wanted to have a presence in Horizon West, but they haven’t yet found a suitable piece of property.

“I saw they’re looking at doing a couple of summer things in the area,” VanderLey said. “They’ve been looking at the potential of purchasing land, and that would be their first choice. They don’t want to spend the money they’ve earmarked on rent — they want to build, but they’d like to have a presence now.”

Sullivan said the library has a committee dedicated to Horizon West, and its members talk with residents in the area to discover ways to work with the community. 

“We don’t have a hard and fast plan or date; we’re still in the exploration phase,” she said. “We’ve talked with different organizations about ways we can make it happen, but nothing has quite come together yet. If there were opportunities to collaborate with other organizations, that would be something else that we’d be willing to talk to people about.

“Horizon West is so receptive and the Waterleigh community (was) really eager to have us, so they offered us space,” she said. “We’re able to reserve it … because they have an interest in seeing a library as well, so that’s how that came about and we’re happy to work with them.”

VanderLey added she has introduced OCLS to a number of developers in the area that have land. There is much potential for where the right location would be and how much it would cost OCLS, she said.

“They told me this is a priority for them, and I would love to see a library out there, as well,” VanderLey said.


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