How do libraries remain relevant?

Libraries constantly are changing to offer residents a variety of programs to improve their skills in the digital world.

The Orlando Public Library’s Melrose Center has 26,000 square feet of technological centers, such as a 3D lab, simulation lab, sound booths, video and audio production studios, computers and workstations and a photo studio.
The Orlando Public Library’s Melrose Center has 26,000 square feet of technological centers, such as a 3D lab, simulation lab, sound booths, video and audio production studios, computers and workstations and a photo studio.
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Public libraries once were the main resource for obtaining knowledge, exploring the globe or escaping into the pages of a fiction novels and picture books. But then the internet was introduced, and suddenly libraries began seeing a decline in attendance.

This new information highway didn’t leave much room for library visits.

Some folks say there is no longer a need for libraries, but officials at the Orange County Library System have a different opinion.

So, how do libraries remain relevant in a digital world?

“Our libraries are vital resources for our community,” said Erin Sullivan, public relations administrator. “While the work of libraries is changing, the need for them is not going away. Libraries don’t just offer books and basic computing classes; our libraries offer things like coding classes, ebooks, streaming movies and TV shows, early-learning resources for caregivers of young children, access to 3D printing and photography studios, language learning classes and so much more.”

Just last month, OCLS launched a new library app that introduces mobile checkout and virtual library cards.

In 2014, the Orlando Public Library moved its fiction section and opened the Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity. This space includes a variety of technological centers, such as sound booths, video and audio production studios, multiple computers and workstations, a photo studio, simulation lab and 3D printer.

A wide range of programs is offered at all the branches in Orange County. This year, residents can sign up for programs that focus on topics such as literacy, early learning, life skills, entrepreneurial skills, science and art.

“Modern libraries remain vital by evolving, and the Orange County Library System has remained relevant by listening to the needs of the community and adapting to make sure we meet them,” Sullivan said. “In 2018, we received a National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. I think that’s a sign that we’re on the right path and that our community continues to need us.”

West Orange County has four library branches: Southwest, West Oaks, Windermere and Winter Garden.



The Orange County Library System currently is studying two pieces of property in Horizon West to determine which would be better suited for a new library.

“We recently received permission to begin land evaluations, which will determine the number of buildable acres of each property,” said Mary Anne Hodel, library director and CEO. “After the report is delivered to us, we will determine which property to purchase and proceed with negotiations.”

The properties are jointly owned by Orange County and the city of Winter Garden, so the purchase will need to be approved by both jurisdictions.

District 1 Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey has said she would like to see a library in Horizon West.

“The library was always a very special place for me,” she said. “As soon as my parents allowed, I would ride my bike up to the library twice a week to check out books. As a parent, I often involved my children in story time at the library. Libraries are a place of learning for our community, regardless of one’s economic status. And they provide a focus and gathering place for the community.”

Until a permanent library facility is built, the library will continue to offer classes and programs in Horizon West through its successful pop-up library.

“Pop-up libraries give communities in our service area a sampling of library programming close to home,” said Erin Sullivan, public relations administrator with OCLS. “Horizon West and Lake Nona are fast-growing areas, home to families who would like to bring their kids to library events but don’t always find it easy to do so because there isn’t a library nearby.”

She said special programming is coming to Horizon West starting in February: Prime Time Family Reading Time. This summer, special pop-ups will offer the library system’s annual Summer Reading Program, which typically draws about 100,000 people.



Pop-up Library programs take place at the Waterleigh Community Clubhouse, 16150 Pebble Bluff Loop, Winter Garden.

• ZERO TO FIVE STORYTIME, 10:30 to 11 a.m. Thursdays, Jan. 23, Feb. 6, Feb. 20, March 5 and March 19. This program, recommended for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, offers the rhythm and repetition of nursery rhymes and the use of picture books, songs and flannel board stories. Lasts about 25 minutes.

• PRIME TIME FAMILY READING TIME – BILINGUAL, 6 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 6, Feb. 13, Feb. 20, Feb. 27, March 5 and March 12. This six-week reading and discussion program promotes conversation between children and families. Meals will be provided. Call (407) 835-7323.

• TO BE A DRUM CELEBRATION, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8. Enjoy a storytelling performance of “To Be a Drum,” by Evelyn Coleman. Register at (407) 835-7323.

• BIG IDEA BUBBLE SHOW, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 7. Learn about reflection, refraction, surface tension and more from shimmering waves of soap films to rainbow bubbles and other bubbles of all shapes and sizes. Register at (407) 835-7323.

• DISCOVER MATH & SCIENCE, presented by Michelee Puppets, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. Explore the seasons, shapes and surprises in the world, explore math concepts and be transported into a world of imagination. Register at (407) 835-7323.


A staffer at the Orlando branch prints a miniature telephone on the 3D printer.
A staffer at the Orlando branch prints a miniature telephone on the 3D printer.


The Orlando branch has several 3D printers.
The Orlando branch has several 3D printers.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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