Many years ago when my son was a 2 year old, the city where we lived decided they needed an expanded library. I was so excited about the prospect — we loved Story Time at the library and the old building which housed our library “had good bones” and a beautiful park-like lawn at the side where the toddlers could enjoy being outside, but we needed more room, especially for the children and students to use the library.
It was cold much of the year there and that small play area next to the “Story Time” room was a godsend to Moms and Dads and their children. A visit there was a special part of our week. We were excited about the library being enlarged and offering even more books and tapes and stories.
Imagine my dismay when I learned that, rather than expanding the beautiful old building as the architects had recommended, the “powers that be” planned to relocate the library … and make the entrance to the building across a busy highway. No more park-like setting, no more casual "strollering" along the sidewalk to Story Time; now, we would have to park in a garage and “stroll” across a busy city highway! A wall of fast moving traffic would form an obstacle course for the children and their parents.
I was furious and dismayed! It was so short-sighted and dangerous. How could anyone think of doing this?
Two years ago I felt the same way when I learned that the county was closing the Coastal Branch Library on Saturdays. This time, it was my grandchildren I was taking to the library and they loved it as much as their father had. But, because we all were working Monday-Friday, Saturdays were the only days we had for the library.
Already, we were having to miss Story Time; with this change, we would not be able to go to the library at all — and a valuable part of their education and childhood experience would be lost. They would not know the joy of wandering around the stacks of books, the kindness of the librarians, the important feeling that came from checking out their own book; the anticipation of getting their library card; or the excitement of discovering a wide, wonderful world between the covers of the beautiful books.
This time, it was not a wall of traffic that was the obstacle, but a wall of bureaucracy, budget cuts, and shortsighted management decisions. I could not believe it was happening again … that the people in charge were making decisions without considering the consequences to the people who used the library.
Thirty-five years ago a group of moms, dads, grandparents, and “city fathers and mothers” came together to petition the community to keep the library in the park … not across the busy highway. After months of meetings and conversations and protests, common sense finally ruled and the library remained a quiet place for the children to learn about books and the worlds they reveal.
Today, we are asking the County Commissioners to reconsider the permanent Saturday closing of the Coastal Branch Library. There must be a way to make the library available to those people who work Monday through Friday and parents and grandparents who want to take their children to the library.
In difficult economic times such as what we have had for the last few years, libraries are more important than ever; in all times, spending time at the library makes a contribution to the people and by extension to the community that no budget sheet can ever truly represent. Please join us in signing the petition online to ask our County Commissioners to take a second look at this decision and find a way to remove this obstacle.
Or write, email or call the county commissioners if you do not have access to the Internet. Monday through Friday, you can use the computers and Internet at the library.
In Maryland, in 1978, I feared a child would be killed crossing the highway to get to the library; today in Santa Rosa Beach, I fear too many children’s sense of curiosity and enrichment are being killed because of Saturday’s closed doors.
We can do better — as a community we need to do better for the children, if not for ourselves. We are asking the County Commission to take a second look; please join us.
Sign the petition, email your commissioner, send a letter to the editor. Who knows what one, or many, of our children might learn from a Saturday afternoon at the library? And someday, that same child might make a remarkable contribution to our world because one day, at a tiny library in Florida, an adult cared enough to advocate for a small change that made a huge difference.
Glenda Wood is a Santa Rosa Beach resident.