This October, the Okaloosa County Public Library Cooperative (OCPLC) celebrates its 20th anniversary. Comprised of libraries in Crestview, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Mary Esther, Niceville and Valparaiso, it “serves residents of Okaloosa County with free public library services.” To mark the occasion, we present 20 fun facts about your community libraries.
1. Both the Valparaiso Community Library and the Crestview Public Library offer the chance to socialize and craft at the same time. Crestview hosts “Coffee and Craft” each month, while the Valparaiso library has a weekly “Needles and Hooks Social Club.”
2. Learn Japanese, Arabic or Spanish from your own computer. Visit the OCPLC website, and use your library card to log into Rocket Languages. Features downloadable lessons, games, and more.
3. On the third Tuesday of every month, children can read to special dogs as part of the READ: Reading Education Assistance Dogs program at Niceville Public Library. Signup is required. Crestview children can also read to Dozer, a local pup, on the first Saturday of every month.
4. In 1991, celebrated American author Harper Lee donated $200 to the Destin Library for the purchase of new books.
5. In 2007, the OCPLC had 100,335 registered borrowers, or 55 percent of Okaloosa County’s entire population. In 2016, there were 72,555 registered borrowers, equivalent to 36 percent of our population. That’s quite a drop, isn’t it? Amazingly, 2007 had 608,804 checkouts, while there were—drumroll, please—762,052 check-outs in 2016. We may live online these days, but we still love our libraries.
6. The Valparaiso library will proudly debut its new 3-D printer, available for customer use, this October.
7. The Mary Esther Public Library offers a Monthly Movie Matinee, which features “family-friendly movies each month throughout the year.” Light refreshments are provided. Please register in advance.
8. The OCPLC was founded in October 1997. Founding members were the Crestview, Mary Esther and Niceville libraries.
9. Did you know you can get your passport at the Fort Walton Beach Library? They don’t take photos, but will help you with everything else. Call 850-833- 9590 to make an appointment—no walk-ins.
10. Are you a Crestview resident looking for a job or career change? Crestview partners with CareerSource Okaloosa-Walton to provide inperson help with employment services at the library. Check website for dates and times.
11. Genealogists will be pleased to know that the Valparaiso library has a unique collection of genealogy materials—“over 3,600 publications with hundreds of local researches completing their family histories.”
12. Courtesy of OPLC, drivers have FREE online access to a ton of DMV practice tests—permit or driver’s license, motorcycle, even CDL.
13. The Fort Walton Beach Library’s address on Miracle Strip Parkway makes it the perfect place to stop and grab a beach read before heading out to Okaloosa Island.
14. Did you know you can borrow games—new titles, not just old fart games—for Playstation, XBOX and Wii at your local library? If the game you want happens to be at another library, just request it and within a few days, it will be delivered to your branch.
15. Both the Destin and Mary Esther libraries were run solely by volunteers during the first years of their existence.
16. Homebound individuals may quality for Books- By-Mail, which is exactly what it sounds like. Call your local library for more information.
17. Calling all eBook lovers…you can borrow titles, including bestsellers, for your Nook, Kindle, etc. All you need is your library card.
18. Have you heard of Brainfuse JobNOW, the online service that includes “live job coaching, realtime interview practice, [and a] full-service resume lab”? From the OPLC website, login with your library card and polish up your job hunting from the comfort of your own home.
19. Niceville’s Friends of the Library does an amazing job turning your donated books into new library projects. And the Friends are super nice, to boot.
20. Individual libraries could not afford to subscribe to many of the aforementioned services, but thanks to the pooling of resources, OPLC is pleased to offer all the above and more to Okaloosa County residents 100 percent FREE of charge. Find out more at www.readokaloosa.org.