When Joyce Huggins walked in to the Destin Library on a brisk Thursday afternoon, she expected to select a book, check out and be on her merry way.
Instead, the retired Destin resident was greeted with applause from library staff at the front desk, a photo op and a gift bag with champagne and heart-shaped chocolates.
“It was a nice surprise, for sure,” Huggins said. “But I wasn’t prepared for it!”
Unbeknownst to her, just by walking through the doors, Huggins became the Destin Library’s 1 millionth visitor. Since March 2003, when the library first opened, a black box with a ticker inside has been counting every person who walks into the library.
Will Rogers, References and Youth Services Librarian, said he realized earlier this month that the 1 millionth visitor would be coming soon.
“I had alerted the library director, Mrs. (Jurate) Burns, that this was approaching, and she authorized us to do something special,” Rogers said. “The Friends of the Destin Library purchased a little token gift bag for the individual and we planned to announce it here and take a picture.”
And that’s just what they did when Huggins walked through the door. She told The Log she had been on her way to get groceries at Winn Dixie when she decided to stop by the library and pick out a new book.
“I go to the library as often as I can, usually a few times a month,” she said. “I decided to stop by and see what book I might find that I would want to read.”
Huggins said she was thrilled and surprised by her accomplishment. She said she has enjoyed many of the library’s services over the years, including the free genealogy search classes, and likes to take her nieces there as well.
Her favorite part of the library, though, isn’t on the shelves.
“It’s the people,” she said. “They’re all so wonderful, friendly and helpful.
“I always liked the facility and the grounds, too,” she added. “No matter the season, when I get out of my car and walk up the sidewalk I just so enjoy the natural landscaping they do. I think the Destin Garden Club does some great work there, It’s always aesthetically very pleasing.”
Rogers said the library has catered to 1 million visitors over the years by remaining an integral part of Destin.
“Libraries play an important part in our community, and they can continue in spite of all the changes in our society and technology,” he said. “Whether it’s leisure reading or more sophisticated reading, or providing computer classes, a digital lab with virtual reality … we meet the needs of a variety of people. We’re a place where people can come to visit, relax, read or study.”