A History of Our Library
In 1917 the women of Umatilla began a library in an upstairs room over a department store on the comer of Central Avenue and Orange Lane. The library director was a volunteer and all books were donated in order to start the library collection. During the WPA days, a log cabin was built in the center of town on Central Avenue to house the library, a community room, and city hall. The library remained there until the building was destroyed by fire in January 1959. A modem building, constructed on the same site during 1959-60, became the new home of the library, the community building and city hall. In 1960 the first paid library director was hired; the first five-member Umatilla Library Board was appointed on February 7, 1967.
In 1980, the library extended its hours from 21 to 30 hours a week, with one employee. By 1981, with 1,089 patrons, the library had outgrown its one room. The Atlantic Coast Line 1,600 sq. ft. depot, built in 1915, was donated to the city to use for the library. Land was donated for the building and money was raised for its renovation. The railroad theme is carried out in the library, thus making the building quite a conversation piece throughout the community. Patron registration increased to 1,831 by the time Open House was held on April 7, 1983.
On October 1, 1982, the Umatilla Public Library, Eustis Memorial Library, and Cooper Memorial Library in Clermont became charter members of the Lake County Library System. The library system was established to extend free library service to residents throughout the county, share resources, extend borrowing privileges beyond municipal boundaries, and to take advantage of cost savings realized through pooling resources.
A 300 sq. ft. orange caboose was added on the west side in 1986. This additional space was used for literacy and ESL classes, staff and board meetings, youth programs, and as a study room. In October 1991, with 2,465 registered patrons and a staff of 4.15 full time equivalent employees, the city added a 950 sq. ft. addition on the north side of the building. Open House was held in February 1992. This addition, plus the caboose, brought the library to 2,850 sq. ft. Today there are 9686 registered patrons using this library with 5 full-time and 3 part-time employees.
A Friends of the Library group was organized in the early part of 1998 and was incorporated in May 1998. This group helped raise the money for the new planned library addition. Open house was held on April 30, 2000 after the 5,770 sq. ft. addition was added to the library, enlarging the building to 8,620 sq. ft
The library offers children, youth and adult regular print books, audio cassettes, books on CDs, videos, DVDs, video games, large print books, magazines, newspapers, computers, and a copy machine for public use. A variety of programs and classes are held for children and adults.
By MaryEllen Babb, 2004
As of January 1, 2012, there are 15 libraries in the Lake County Library System. Reciprocal borrowing has been established with Lake Sumter Sate College, Marion, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties. We have added to our collection eBooks, eMagazines and streaming video.
In 2013, the library’s bright orange caboose was made over. The caboose was stripped and cleaned of all its rust spots. Much need welding was done to the parts that had deteriorated, and then it was painted its original caution orange it was blessed with when it was owned by the Seaboard System Railroad, which is quite bright. We hold small programs in our orange caboose. She’s a beautiful lady, who is still serving the Umatilla community long after her retirement. She has been the library’s landmark since 1984. Our caboose sees many visitors from all over the country, thanks to Geocaching.com.
by L. Gainer, 2012