Destin Library becomes a college campus for one student

Jennie McKeon
Steve Davis spends hours in the Destin Library and has made friends with the staff and regular visitors.

After 30 years in business management, Steve Davis was laid off. It was 2010, and the U.S. jobless rate was 9.6 percent; 15 states reported annual average unemployment rates of 10.0 percent or more.

And Davis was getting desperate.

When out on the job hunt, Davis was repeatedly told he had the experience, but was lacking a degree. Davis had attended junior college after graduating high school in Alabama, but family problems prompted him to go straight into the workforce.

"I didn't like it," Davis said of not returning to higher education. "I knew it was going to hurt me."

And it hurt.

After eight months of interviews and job applications with no end in sight, Davis decided to do something about that degree. He enrolled in Argosy University, an online college, to get his degree in business management, with a minor in healthcare management. He's currently at a 3.94 GPA and will graduate in October 2014 at the age of 52.

Through hard times, Davis found his silver lining — and it turned up at Destin Library.

Davis is not receiving unemployment checks and is living off of his savings. He moved from Alabama to live with his mother in Destin, who only has her Social Security checks as a means of living. Such a tight budget meant that bills such as Cable/Internet, had to be cut.

"That's why the Destin library has been such a Godsend," Davis said.

Attending an online college is almost impossible without internet service, but with the help of the Destin Library, Davis has been able to make good use of the library's computer lab.

"I can be here for six or seven hours," Davis said, planted in front of one of the library computers.

Library staff has also played an integral part in Davis' education — whether its ordering books for him from other Okaloosa County libraries or just lending a helping hand.

When he's in the middle of an exam and has books sprawled out across desks, staff will notify others not to disturb Davis.

Using the computers is just one of the many ways the Destin Library advances the education of both adults and children.

"People don't realize the library is more than just a warehouse for books," said library director Jurate Burns. "Libraries support education at all levels."

Library staff and officials pay attention to the books they shelve, making sure they fit the curriculum of local schools, Burns said. In the near future, the Destin Library will be expanding its study space with two separate rooms that can be used for individual studying or tutoring. Funds for the study rooms come from the Friends of the Destin Library.

If you're looking for a quiet place to write or work, you can take advantage the Wi-Fi and park yourself in one of the many seating areas.

"We like to work with everyone's needs," Burns said. "In this economy a lot of people are canceling their internet and cable service. They can come here and rent DVDs and use the Internet. We're happy to provide those services."

Aside from renting books and movies and checking your e-mail, the library offers a wide variety of free family-friendly events.

When you sign up for a library card, you're not just getting access to books and computers, you get access to your community.

"I've made some great friends here. We'll chat while I'm studying and they're reading up on college football," Davis said. "It's a nice atmosphere."