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 Pine and Court Streets. On May 11, 1920, Orlando citizens showed by a vote of 417 to 19 that they wanted a 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 1921, 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.
Preparation for the 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, the Albertson building was demolished, and construction began. The Orlando Public Library building 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."
The Library closed its temporary location on July 23 to move into the new building. The Orlando Public Library was dedicated on a rainy Sunday afternoon, August 7, 1966.
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.
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 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.
As the Orange County Library System was making plan for a staff enrichment day this past November, an idea was hatched to create an employee-produced video about the history of the Library. 101 East, the Library's own video production team, began researching facts and compiling archived photographs, and a script was written to provide narrative for the video. On Staff Day 2003, 39 employees came together to help create the video, taking turns operating the camera, providing narration, and coordinating the audio. The result of the project is the video "80 Years at Rosalind and Central", which details the journey of OCLS from its beginnings as the Albertson Public Library to its present status as one of the country's leading public library systems. View the "80 Years at Rosalind and Central" video.
Booker T. Washington Library
The Orange County Library System and the Shiloh Baptist Church celebrated the history of the former Booker T. Washington Library on December 30, 2001. A commemorative bronze plaque was unveiled at the previous site of the Library at 528 West Jackson Street. The building now houses the T. C. Collier Center, which belongs to the Church.
The Booker T. Washington Branch of the Albertson Public Library served residents of the West Orlando community. The library opened in June 1924 in what had been the rectory of St. John's Episcopal Church at 107 South Terry Street.
The City of Orlando constructed the new BTW Library building on West Jackson Street. It opened to the public in August 1954. The library continued to serve the community until 1984 when it was incorporated into the Washington Park Library in the Lila Mitchell Community Center on Raleigh Street.
The City of Orlando owned the building until 1994 when the Church purchased it. The Church re-named the building the T.C. Collier Center in 1995.