The Orange County Library System’s West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center is a popular and important stop for residents wanting to research their family tree. It boasts 40,000 books, including reference books and a large collection of donated family histories; plus access to census records, passenger lists, military records and more.
But at almost 20 years old, the library was starting to look and feel a little outdated.
A complete renovation is in the works currently, and the plan is to upgrade the library from top to bottom, said Gregg B. Gronlund, branch manager. This includes a fresh coat of paint inside in a new color palette, new carpeting and updated restrooms.
“We’re doing this with a variety of our branches; we’re about fifth in line,” Gronlund said.
Renovation costs total $475,000 — $225,000 for updated restrooms and $250,000 for the rest of the refresh project.
The library closed to the public Nov. 15 and will reopen Jan. 4. Book returns can still be made at this branch. The closest open libraries are the Winter Garden branch, 805 E. Plant St.; Windermere branch, 530 Main St.; and Hiawassee branch, 7391 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando.
Many library patrons like to put books on hold and pick them up at their convenience. While West Oaks is closed, they can either get them at another branch or switch to home delivery.
Another change coming to the library is the way books, music and videos will be displayed. The tall shelving is being replaced with three-quarter shelves, which are designed to open up the space and let more natural light in.
“It still allows us to house a very large collection,” Gronlund said.
When OCLS moved its genealogy collection from downtown Orlando to Ocoee six years ago, library staff added compact shelving that was operated electronically and allowed more research materials to be included to the area. But it was an issue if several people wanted to do research at the same time. The compact shelves could effectively only accommodate one person.
With the new open stacks, more visitors will be able to freely browse. Staff members also are on hand to assist.
The layout of the library will change, as well.
“We’re just kind of rearranging things a little bit,” Gronlund said. “We’re moving the children’s area back to where it was before — and it will be bright and open — and we’re moving the genealogy to near the west side. That side will be almost completely genealogy.”
While the branch is closed, physical access to the genealogy collection will be unavailable, but customers can submit research questions to [email protected] or book a virtual appointment — through the Book a Pro form — with a professional genealogist assigned to the West Oaks branch. Library guests can visit ocls.info for online resources and genealogy programs, as well.
“I think everyone’s going to enjoy having a fresh branch to come back to,” Gronlund said.
For questions about the West Oaks branch, call the OCLS Questline at (407) 835-7323.
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.