Local libraries offer a lot more than books and free internet. They're a huge community resource.

"People come in to fill out tax forms, apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and continue their education," said Dan Owens, Walton County library services director. "And of course you can come in to enjoy fine literature without having to purchase the complete works of Shakespeare."

With this week being National Library Week, it's the perfect time to stop in, get your library card (if you don't have one yet) and enjoy all the programs and classes that are offered.

Originated in 1958, National Library Week was created to promote reading after research showed that Americans were spending less time reading than they were listening to radios and televisions. In its inaugural year, the theme was "Wake Up and Read." This year's slogan is "Lives Change @ Your Library."

Coastal Branch Library Manager, Linda Thompson, and staff have put together a whole week's worth of fun at the Santa Rosa Beach location.

"We decided to put a health spin on the theme you know, since bikini season is coming up," Thompson said with a laugh. "We partnered with local businesses to help celebrate and have received a lot of support."

On top of the packed schedule of classes and speakers, kids are encouraged to participate in a book swap. All week long, young readers can bring in their gently used books to exchange for a selected group of books that will be set out.

"Kids are welcomed to get a bookmark and will also get a special treat for signing up for their first library card," Thompson said.

In North Walton, visit the DeFuniak Springs Library. Built in 1886, it is the oldest continuously used library in the state.

"A lot of people are amazed at the items we have on display," said Owens, who is also the manager of the DeFuniak Springs Library. "We have a late 1880s music box, antique weapons and lot of old books."

During National Library Week, the DeFuniak Springs branch will have their regular Children's Storytime, Tuesday April 15 at 10 a.m. and is hosting a special chess tournament, Thursday, April 17 at 6 p.m.

From hunting down the books you need to offering a safe after-school hangout, libraries support the community, and in turn, the community supports the local library.

"Ninety eight percent of our budget comes from local funds," said Owens. "We have a lot of supporters who still advocate the concept of the library."

For Thompson, the beauty of libraries comes from finding those special stories that stay with you forever.

"Just like Dr. Seuss said, 'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go,'  Thompson said. "I love that quote. It sums it all up doesn't it?" 



April 14: Chair Fitness with Sue Samuels at 9 a.m.

April 15: Book swap all day long, Therapy Dogs at 3 p.m., Lego Club at 3:30 p.m. and Artist Mark Douglas will do free caricatures from 3-5 p.m.

April 16: 10 a.m. Grayton Beach Fitness Specialists, Ocean Elements Day Spa chair massages, and a free facial consultation from Spa 98. 1 p.m. Tai Chi with Anna Dyes. 5:30 p.m. Marty Kernion will discuss natural health. 6:30 p.m. Janet Hardy, certified Neuromuscual therapist will discuss myofascial release.

April 17: 10 a.m. Easter Egg Hunt and Storytime

April 19: 9 a.m. Fitness class and at 10 a.m. author Arlene Karian will speak about her book "Mentoring Your Child to Win."


WANT TO GO? National Library Week is April 13-19. For more information on Walton County Libraries, visit www.co.walton.fl.us.