Wed July 24, 2013
Here's A Look At The Libraries That Miami-Dade County Could Close
In the minutes of last Tuesday’s meeting of the Miami-Dade Commission, it reads, “In libraries, these adjustments will result in the reduction of hours of service and closure of 10 storefronts and up to 12 other libraries.” Meaning, to avoid increases in property taxes, the commission proposes to eliminate 22 of its 49 public library branches.
Miami-Dade libraries are situated on three different types of property: on county-owned property; in leased retail areas, called storefront libraries; and on property under inter-local agreements, where the county leases property for a nominal fee (maybe around $1 per year.)
According to Victoria Galan, a public affairs officer for the Miami-Dade libraries, closing 22 libraries represents the worse case scenario only. Other options include reducing library hours, creating a “garage pick-up” situation (whereby one library is open for two days then another library in the area is open for two days) and/or eliminating library services like literacy programs and book clubs.
One of the libraries on the chopping block is the Doral Branch Library, a storefront library in the Doral Isles Shopping Center.
Astrid Arraras is a parent who visits this branch library at least once or twice a week with her kids, ages 6 and 7. She said they have been coming regularly since the beginning of the summer, and she has seen a notable improvement in her kids’ reading and comprehension because of this library.
Her daughter receives free tutoring here and the branch offers community activities like book clubs, crafts and kids' lunches for free.
In the worst-case scenario, this library would close. Arraras is confused by Miami-Dade’s library treatment, particularly in light of Miami-Dade’s Literacy for Every Adult in Dade program (L.E.A.D.) that promotes literacy for all and hosts tutoring workshops.
“They (Mayor Gimenez and the commissioners) are sending mix messages. 'We have to promote reading, but let’s close the libraries that are free' (but) that’s where the books are, and where the kids can go and have access to them… It doesn’t make any sense.”
The closest library to the Doral Branch is the International Mall Branch, which is less than five miles away. But unlike the Doral branch, it does not emphasize children’s collections. The president-elect of the Public Library Association, Larry Neal, said that nationally, the serving range of a library is five miles, pointing out that not all library users have cars and a five-mile trek could mean no visit to the library.
Libraries on the chopping block in Miami-Dade include:
- California Club
- Civic Center Kiosk
- Country Walk
- Golden Glades
- Hialeah Gardens
- Lakes of the Meadows
- Lemon City
- Little River
- Model City
- North Shore
- Palm Springs North
- South Shore
- Virrick Park
- West Kendall Regional
Mapped out below are the at-risk Miami-Dade libraries in red along with what type of property they are located on. In green are libraries that are not on the chopping block:
View Miami-Dade Public Libraries in a larger map
Neal of the PLA puts the potential Miami-Dade library closures in national perspective. He said that there is no national trend in library closures, but there has been a widespread reduction in operating revenue, service hours and staffing, according to the IMLS Public Library Survey.
Based on a survey conducted in Neal’s district in Michigan, he said that 95 percent of the population expected to continue using libraries at the same rate or more in the future. According the IMLS survey, public libraries served 297.6 million people in the United States, or 96.4 percent of the population.
For Neal, libraries represent that “third place,” particularly as libraries are some of the few places left that are both admission-free and advertisement-free. Libraries are also relatively safe places, and FEMA recognized libraries as essential resources after Hurricane Katrina, and then again after Hurricane Sandy this past year.
On an international level, library closures run rampant in the UK with estimates placing library closures at 1000 by 2016.
The library closures in Miami-Dade are currently just proposals, and the commissioners still have two meetings and six town-hall meetings regarding the budget.
On July 30, they will meet to discuss the property tax rate again. At this meeting, they can only maintain the decided rate from last Tuesday’s meeting or reduce it further. The official vote on the budget takes place on September 16 with the budget going into effect on October 1.