A closing chapter

Longtime library director Jurate Burns announces retirement

Maddie Rowley | 315-4353 | @maddiedestinlog |

After 19 years as the director at the Destin Library, Jurate Burns is ready to move onto her next chapter.

She’s looking forward to retirement and has plans to spend more time in South Carolina with her three granddaughters, travel to Lithuania where her parents were from, and relax.

"When I took the job in 1999, I told myself I would work until I’m 70 and then I’ll retire. Well, I turned 70 last week," Burns said. Her last day will be Friday, May 4.

Burns was born in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II and then immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and older brother.

Her father was a mechanical engineer, so they moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Burns grew up. She met her husband at Michigan State University.

"He was the foreigner up at Michigan State; the Alabama boy," Burns said. "We got married in 1968, so it’ll be 50 years in December."

Her husband, Matt, joined the Navy after law school and was stationed in Mississippi before being offered a job as an attorney at a firm in Destin, which brought the family here.

Burns speaks in a mesmerizing hushed librarian tone. She’s calmly confident, her eyes crinkling at the edges when she smiles and talks about the construction of the library.

"My favorite thing was being involved with the building of the library," said Burns, as she turned the laminated pages of a scrapbook filled with pictures of the ground breaking and aerial shots of construction.

She wrote a grant for a half a million dollars and was awarded the funding from the state of Florida.  The library itself was a $1.8 million project.

Burns refers to the library as "the house she never got to build."

"I got to pick all the colors, all the fabrics; it was really fun," Burns said. "It’s all done in nice, soft greens, and I also got to go to Atlanta to pick out furniture."

No detail went unnoticed.

"I love that when you look out the windows of the library, you just see the green of the live oak trees." Burns said.

The library was previously located on Stahlman Avenue in the current home of the Destin History & Fishing Museum before the new building was completed in 2003. The Destin Library on Sibert Avenue has almost 8,000 more square feet of room for bookshelves, tables, lounges, and computer labs.

Burns has added her personal touch to just about every room in the library. She researched a wall-hanging system for the monthly art galleries the library hosts, she painted part of the children’s nook herself, and it was her idea to create a ship-like structure for the children’s area.

"I bought the portholes at an antique shop," said Burns. "The ‘ship’ is named 'Miss Willie Mae' after Lloyd Taylor’s mother. Lloyd used to be on the city council and the school board. He grew up with Dewey Destin."

Destin’s current mayor, Gary Jarvis, said that Destin has been blessed to have Burns as its library director for 19 years.

"Her dedication is second to none and her contributions to our community are greatly appreciated. We wish her the best in her retirement," Jarvis said.

Burns’ creative impact in building the Destin Library will be greatly missed, Jarvis added. From hiring full-time paid staff to ensure continuity, to having study rooms and a media lab built, to designing a beautiful table out of the old-fashioned library card catalogues, her knowledge of the library and the community reaches far and wide.

"I’ll be sad on my last day, of course, a little bit," said Burns. "I’ll miss the people."

The library director position has been posted on the city of Destin's website since March 24 and will remain active for 30 days. The city's human resources department is compiling a list of qualified candidates for the job.