Sometimes petitions and letters do make a difference.

When Walton County's Coastal Branch Library began closing on Saturdays, those who use it regularly were sorely disappointed.

Members of the Friends of the Library group questioned the closing and complained to no avail. They were told the funds were not there to support staying open but five days a week and cutbacks had to be made to make budget. 

Believing funds could be found somewhere in the budget, library lovers were urged to send letters to County Commissioners and the local newspaper. Then a petition started to circulate.

Miraculously, somewhere in that budget, the funds have been found to keep the library open on Saturdays, if it passes a vote of the County Commissioners, said District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows.

"We moved money around and added money to the library's budget to keep them open six days a week," said Meadows. "We have been working on it since the first draft meeting and we had (financial director) Rhonda Quimby come up with the money amount, added it back in, recalculated, and moved some numbers around. The board still needs to vote on it and approve it, but I haven't heard anything said to indicate it won't be approved."

Meadows said if the Saturday opening is approved, there will still be money for buying books.

Even though the commissioners were looking at the possibility of reopening the library prior to the letters and petition, Meadows said they did make a difference.

"The money was not in the budget to begin with, but through moving things around, we found enough," she said. "The people have spoken."

Library Director Dan Owens said the Saturday closings occurred during the budget hearing at the first County Commission meeting of September 2009, when all libraries began operating five days a week.

"I was given the impression it was to save money," said Owens. "At the same time we started experiencing a decline in people using library, but we have seen a decline since 1999. In 2011, there were no funds for books and materials."

Coastal Branch Library is located at 437 Greenway Trail in Santa Rosa Beach, just off U.S. Highway 331S. Phone 267-2809 for information. Its current hours of operation are Mondays from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Tuesday - Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; and closed Saturday and Sunday.

The vote should come before commissioners at their first meeting in September.

"Often, the community cannot visit the library during the week due to their busy schedules," said Friends of the Library board member Lynn Wesson. "Area teachers assign student research which can be found in our library reference section and on library computers. High school and college students often work after school and cannot get to the library except on weekends. Since many students and adults do not have computers, the library may be their only option. Further, adults and teens alike use the computers to seek and apply for jobs.”

The Friends of the Coastal Branch's main objective is to help support the Coastal Branch with computers, books, periodicals, CDs, DVDs through fundraising. 

“Opening on Saturday would continue to honor the library's commitment to the community," Wesson said.