July 29, 2013, Volume 42, No. 30
The following is quoted directly from this week's Library HOTLINE:
Miami Dade PL To Close Nearly Half its Branches
Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) will have to cut 22 branches (out of 49) and 251 jobs, as well as reducing hours across the board, the Miami Herald reported on July 15.
The cuts are the result of a $15 million library budget shortfall. (The system had been using leftover funds to bridge the gap for the past two years.) Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez suggested the cuts to the county commissioners, who approved his recommendation on July 16.
Once the commissioners set the preliminary rate, it can be lowered but not raised. But Raymond Santiago, MDPLS director and Library Journal’s 2003 Librarian of the Year, hasn’t given up on mitigating the worst of the impacts. Santiago said, “The administration will continue to investigate options to reduce these negative impacts” through different adjustments to the library budget. “We’re looking at everything right now,” he said.
“The commission’s vote is going to take away a lot of very important com- munity programs” including adult and childhood literacy programs and résumé creation workshops, John Quick, president of the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library, told Hotline. “The commission…kept talking about books, but the library is so much more than books. Such a large percentage of the population of Miami-Dade does not have access to the Internet; they get that from the public library system. These are the things people need to survive, to earn a living: in this day and age, a lot of the job postings [are] on the Internet.”
Quick said the Friends of MDPLS is going to “go down every avenue and turn over every rock” to help the library make up the missing funding, including exploring state, national, and corporate sources, as well as traditional fundraising activities. “But it is such a large amount, more than 50 percent of the library’s operating budget,” he said. “The book sale is great, but it is not going to make $31 million.”
Faye C. Roberts, executive director of the Florida Library Association, provided some context, telling Hotline, “Although property values in Florida are beginning to rebound, the li state recently increased counties’ contributions to the state retirement system while also reducing Medicaid payments, creating a financial squeeze for local governments. This is a particular problem in Miami-Dade, where more than 20 percent of residents receive food stamps and the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Eliminating 251 jobs and closing 22 libraries is a major blow in Miami-Dade, where more than 100 library workers were laid off just two years ago.”
A CHANGING SITUATION
Gimenez originally suggested a roughly five percent property tax increase to fill the library’s budget gap, along with a similar gap in the county’s fire-rescue budget, and to convert the county’s animal shelter to a “no-kill” model. However, under criticism from commissioners and citizens alike, Gimenez first reduced the amount of the increase by removing the funds for the shelter conversion and finally walked back the proposed increase altogether.
The Herald quoted Gimenez as saying the initial cuts contemplated included closing 42 libraries. The number of proposed closures was ultimately reduced because the mayor told the library to keep more libraries open and reduce operating hours instead. A new planned branch slated to open next year would still go forward. Also, the county’s bookmobiles, listed as a possible cut in an earlier Herald report, are not affected.
Thanks to everyone who has supported this effort for Miami-Dade. I know this is NOT the only cause.
The Mayor cancelled the upcoming commission meeting that was to take place on July 30, 2013. However, public budget meetings are being held in August at library locations and the pressure from so many
Concerned voices HAVE made a difference. Again, thank you so much!
Please see an updated iMapLibraries post at http://imaplibraries.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/who-loses-when-libraries-close/
It is very data-intensive, but feel free to use portions of it to promote your support of library advocacy.
For updates, visit the Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheMiamiDadePublicLibraries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Stay calm and Advocate!
FSU School of Library & Information Studies