The traffic congestion, the ever-present road work, the numerous construction projects all point to the same truth – the Nonahood is growing by leaps and bounds.
Many Lake Nona area residents are excited about all of the recently-announced, high-tech developments, yet there is a key component of a vibrant society that’s still missing – a local library.
Currently, the closest Orange County Library System (OCLS) branches to Lake Nona area residents all take about 20 minutes to get to by car, and that’s not accounting for extra time due to traffic congestion and construction. None of the branches is easily accessible by bike, walking, or public transportation, and many require toll roads.
“The Lake Nona area is considered, and was developed, as a community of the future, with a focus on health and wellness. A pillar of wellness is mental health and an active mind. Libraries have been community centers for people of all ages and backgrounds to socially interact and have access to services and materials to enrich. What, then, would this progressive community be without a library for its residents?” stated resident Paula Roman.
The Lake Nona area is home to thousands of students – from early learners to schoolchildren to college students to medical and pharmacy students and everything in between. There are veterans, professionals, people looking to make career changes, entrepreneurs, makers, and artists of every type.
“Libraries aren’t just there as a holding place for books. It’s an amazing place that one – brings a diverse community together to socialize about the books they read, two – it helps to increase literacy in children as well as adults, and three – it encourages a lifetime love of reading for children and adults of all reading levels and types because they will find books that are just right for them,” said resident Vindeira Resaul-Maraj.
When it comes to libraries, books are just the beginning. Libraries can not only boost literacy and offer access to information, computers, printers, and software, they can also serve as hubs for voter registration and education, continuing and adult education, English as a Second Language classes, and more. Students, professionals, and entrepreneurs alike use libraries as a place to get work done and benefit from their affordable, hourly study and conference rooms.
Even in pre-pandemic times, libraries have provided access to people who need health and wellness information. In fact, one Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) study showed that an estimated 37% of library computer users (28 million people) use the computers and seek assistance from librarians for health and wellness issues, including learning about medical conditions.
Now more than ever, stressed-out parents need access to the library’s wealth of books, materials, and programming to help educate and entertain kids affected by this pandemic. Many parents use the MAYL system to order materials delivered to their homes and find the virtual programming wonderful. At the November library trustees board meeting, it was announced that a library dropbox will be added near Valencia College Lake Nona in the next 6-7 months. Still, nothing beats having a brick-and-mortar library to serve as a hub of reading, learning, and growing.
“As a parent, I would love a library! Sometimes as parents, we go out of our way to make sure our kids have all the things that they need that we forget about ourselves. Book clubs or just a walk down the ‘wrong’ section and finding a new adventure on a shelf, that’s the magic of the library,” Daloisio said.
After a destructive pandemic with a Metro Orlando unemployment level of 130,220 for the month of September, many local residents are looking for help. Libraries serve as a critical career-development resource for people of all ages and backgrounds to find information related to jobs, have access to computers, Wi-Fi, and printing, interview prep resources, and more.
Here in the Lake Nona area, different groups and individuals have been a part of several efforts and conversations advocating for a local library for many years, including the Lake Nona Regional Chamber of Commerce and recently re-elected Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, to name a few.
“Lake Nona is one of the best places to live in the area and is experiencing exciting growth. Residents have been very vocal about a need for a library,” Rep. Plasencia said.
The local community has demonstrated support through an online petition that, as of mid-November, has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures. Several people attended and spoke at the library trustee board meetings in October and November and have plans to attend in December as well. Residents in the Lake Nona region look forward to having a thriving library branch close to home sooner than later.
To express your support for a library in the Lake Nona area, sign the petition at https://www.change.org/nonalibrary.
Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a former journalist, entrepreneur, and lifelong bookworm. She lives in Laureate Park with her husband, three young children, and rescue puppy.