Discussions regarding a library in Lake Nona began in 2005 and are only now close to fruition. The grassroots efforts lobbying and advocating on our behalf start with a small group of seven Lake Nona residents made up of people of all kinds in the community.
Recent efforts involving District 1 City Commissioner Jim Gray, the Lake Nona Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the public have accelerated the initiative. Commissioner Gray has championed the effort and is partially to thank for guiding us through the process of obtaining a local library. Commissioner Gray was mostly responsible for locating an affordable land parcel for the building.
An Orange County Library System (OCLS) dropoff box is currently operational at Valencia College’s Lake Nona campus. Residents may apply for a library card online, receive it in the mail, and order books and media to be delivered to their homes. While this is a happy medium for now, the ultimate goal remains to be a full-fledged library.
The largest obstacle in bringing a library to Lake Nona has been finding a piece of land fitting all requirements while remaining within their budget. Historically, OCLS has never paid more than $19/square foot while land in Lake Nona runs for about $45/square foot.
Seven members of the Lake Nona community formed the Lake Nona Area Library Campaign Committee in January of this year. At the head is Ashley Cisneros Mejia, whose online petition from Oct. 19 has earned over 7,000 signatures. The Facebook group created for the same purpose, formed by Christopher Hertel, has a following of almost 700 local residents. The overwhelming amount of support for establishing an area library has been spread through social media, print media such as Nonahood News, the Lake Nona Regional Chamber of Commerce, local politicians and elected officials, and other neighbors. The committee works tirelessly to promote their cause and have seen a monumental call-to-action in the community as a result.
“The timing is interesting because I think the past 18 months have been so challenging with everything happening in our world,” said Mejia. “The library is something most everyone can get behind. The pandemic has kept us apart, and I think there has been a thirst to unite around something positive and meaningful. I think this has been a factor in our building momentum.”
The committee is made up of a diverse group of residents ranging from those in their 20s to those in their 80s. The seven met through Facebook, where much discussion over the library occurs. United by their passion for literacy and community engagement, they formed an official committee to better orchestrate the effort. The rest of the committee includes Cecilia Gonzalez, a Valencia College student with experience in political and Hispanic organizations; Christopher Hertel, a veteran and social worker; Tom Keen, a veteran in business development and a frequent volunteer at the Orlando Fisher House; Ishu Martinez, a local community leader and mom heavily involved in her school’s PTA and church; Lucy Redzeposki, a professional in grant writing with experience in economic development and tourism; Eileen Winterble, an executive coach with a history of working as CEO and CFO for several nonprofits, private companies, and governmental agencies; and Ashley Cisneros Meija, who has a background in print journalism as well as public relations and previously owned a digital marketing agency.
The Lake Nona Area Library Campaign Committee combines the widely-varied skill sets of each individual and compounds them into an effective task force. The committee and many members of the community have been attending Library Board of Trustees meetings and signing up to make public comments regarding the need for a library, and they have done extensive research into each individual process that leads to opening a library. They will continue to attend these meetings to support and encourage development plans.
On June 10, the committee expects to have a formal proposal for a lease between OCLS and the City of Orlando. The location in question is just off of Dowden Road, to be adjoined with the city’s planned government center to save money. The single strongest opposition to building any new libraries is the budget: Since the board has initiated building a library in Horizon West, it would be difficult to build another branch in Lake Nona simultaneously – though not impossible. Several other options have been entertained with this one leading as the most feasible and affordable. In addition, the proposed location is located between Lee Vista and Lake Nona and can serve both communities.
This fiery group of passionate individuals are dedicating their time, energy, and talents to bringing our community a public place for learning, growing, connecting, and so much more. Each member of the committee shares a love for public libraries; many of them spent their childhoods in them. They recognize its capacity for connection and its promotion of literacy that would do a great deal of good for the residents of Lake Nona.
Photos Courtesy of OCLS