August 28, 2014

Update: Miami Dade Library To Close Branches

UPDATE: The Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS), which in mid-July was faced with closing 22 of its 49 branches, is now slated to lose only four, the Miami Herald reported a month later, on August 15. However the underlying budget cuts which were driving the closings remain in force; nearly 200 layoffs are still expected, and the library system will cut hours instead of locations.

LJ‘s original coverage of the projected cuts is below:

MDPL 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. According to the Herald, the libraries were chosen based on geography and on whether they’re based in county-owned buildings or rented storefronts.

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 recommended the budget which necessitates the cuts, as well as which cuts should be made, 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. Throughout August, there will be six town hall meetings to explain the proposed budget to residents and receive feedback. On September 10 and September 16, there will be budget hearings. The commissioners will vote on the budget at the September 16 meeting, and it will take effect on October 1.

But though the millage can’t be raised, Raymond Santiago, director of the Miami-Dade Public Library System and LJ’s 2003 Librarian of the Year, hasn’t given up on mitigating the worst of the impacts. He called the cuts presented to the commissioners and detailed above “a worst-case scenario,” and “probably the most drastic of all the options.”

“Before the final budget vote in September,” Santiago continued, “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.

Mayor Gimenez told a local news channel, “people have said that the age of the library is probably ending.” That’s news to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which found that in 2010 (the most recent year surveyed) public libraries saw 1.57 billion visits, an increase of 32.7 percent over the year 2000. In Miami-Dade itself, in the half year from October 2012-April 2013, the library circulated 5.3 million materials (including computer usage) and saw 3.6 million visits.

“The commission’s vote is going to take away a lot of very important community programs” including adult and childhood literacy programs and resume creation workshops, John Quick, president of the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library, told LJ. “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 the MDPL 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 LJ, “Although property values in Florida are beginning to rebound, the 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. This loss of trained library staff comes at a time when they’re needed more than ever.”

Santiago agreed, saying, “We’re faced with, ‘what can you do with the money you have?’ There are a number of unfunded mandates that are coming from the state, and, being the biggest county in the state, it has an enormous impact. The recovery hasn’t been as rapid as anybody would like.”

A changing situation

There have been substantial changes to the mayor’s budget since it was first proposed, less than a week ago. Gimenez originally suggested a roughly 5 percent property tax increase to fill the library’s budget gap, along with a similar gap in Miami-Dade 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. He is now proposing no new taxes as part of his budget, except for tax increases which voters approved a decade ago as part of a bond issue.

When it comes to libraries versus taxes, Gimenez seems to be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He suggested shuttering 13 libraries two years ago, according to the Herald, but “received so much pushback from county commissioners” that this time he decided to suggest a tax-rate hike instead. However, his quick reversal on the hike is not surprising; Gimenez’s predecessor, Mayor Carlos Alvarez, was removed in a recall election in 2011 for raising property taxes.

The Herald quoted Gimenez as saying the initial cuts contemplated included closing 42 libraries. (As infoDOCKET noted, the Herald briefly reported that earlier plan, as well as the layoffs, several days ago, before the story was pulled without explanation.)

Suzy Trutie, assistant director of communications, Miami-Dade County, explained how officials arrived at the proposed cuts. “The Mayor consults with Deputy Mayors and Department Directors on what services, programs and employees will be affected,” Trutie told LJ. “It is ultimately the Mayor’s decision to make recommendations to the Commission. However, the Commission can direct the Mayor to make changes to the budget.”

The number of proposed branch closures was ultimately reduced because the mayor instead told the library to keep more libraries open and reduce operating hours instead. Libraries that are now open five days a week may go down to four days, and those open six days may go down to five, according to Gimenez. A new planned northeast branch slated to open next year would still be opened. And the county’s bookmobiles, listed as a possible cut in an earlier Herald report, are not affected and will remain in service, Trutie told LJ.

Opa Locka library 2007 group Update: Miami Dade Library To Close Branches

Students from Parkway Middle School take a study break, in 2007, at the Opa-locka branch library. Photo by Theo Karantsalis/Special to Library Journal

Theo Karantsalis, a former MDPLS librarian who is now Associate Director of Learning Resources at Miami-Dade College, told LJ, “I have worked at most of the branches and each of these communities will suffer terribly if they close. Our elected officials need to explain why they would consider closing libraries in some of Miami’s poorest African-American neighborhoods. For example, when I worked at the Opa-locka branch in 2007, the community was considered one of the poorest in the country. As a county librarian, I have found that the county’s inner-city libraries serve as safe havens for locals, providing access and knowledge tools they can’t get anywhere else.” Karantsalis, who is also a freelance reporter, was the author of the piece pulled from the Herald site.

Santiago, however, said many of the branches slated for closure, those in rented storefronts, were predominantly in newer, suburban areas that are not particularly poor. “I think we’re very cognizant of that,” he said. The remaining branches were selected in part based on distance from libraries that will remain open, but also taking into account barriers to access such as highways. There are, however, bound to be some gaps. “We have a big area to cover, over 2,500 square miles;” he said, “from the ocean to the Everglades, and south down to the Keys, not just the city of Miami.”

Santiago says he’s not sure yet what will happen to the closed branches in buildings owned by the county, but “we’re not selling our assets.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. As one of many librarians to be let go, I wrote a song about the library to the Firefly tv series theme.

    http://page49.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/my-ode-to-the-library-ala-firefly/

  2. Let me guess, all the poorest parts of the county will lose their libraries.

  3. Impact of losing libraries on people’s lives – more about the 22 Miami Dade libraries slated to be closed:
    http://imaplibraries.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/losing-libraries/

  4. The Miami Herald reported today the true impact of the Miami Dade Commission’s vote to not raise the millage rate sufficiently to pay for libraries or essential fire rescue services. It’s unclear the Commission was truly aware of the implications of their vote. Citizens are asking for a new hearing so they can have a chance to speak up and save these essential services and save our libraries. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/18/3507247/miami-dade-libraries-fire-stations.html

  5. Yet this same county commission found millions of dollars to give away to build a stadium for the Florida Marlins, one of the worst organizations in professional sports.

  6. Mayor Gimenez’ misguided understanding of libraries stems from his not understanding our true value. He would if we all recognized the power of a simple approach that eradicates all misperceptions. It positions libraries as educational Institutions (like schools and colleges) and library professionals as educators–who design and deliver a curriculum that comprises three timeless pillars: Self-Directed Education, Research Assistance & Instruction, and Instructive & Enlightening Experiences. The concept can be applied to all library types. By eradicating (once and for all) all misperceptions, it maximizes respect and funding.

    Library Journal describes this approach as “a 21st-century library model worthy of study and consideration by every other library in America, if not the world.” “2013 Gale/LJ Library of the Year: Howard County Library System, MD,” by John N. Berry, Library Journal, June 15, 2013, p. 33.

    Were the entire profession to adopt this vision, all elected officials would understand through our self-explanatory terminology precisely what we are. We are education–an economic imperative that advances the economy and quality of life for everyone.

    If you are interested, this philosophy is set forth in a book called Transforming Our Image, Building Our Brand: The Education Advantage. Visit TransformingOurImage.com . To experience the approach applied, visit Howard County Library System’s website, HCLibrary.org All the best, Valerie Gross, President & CEO, Howard County Library System (MD)

    • Jay Stephens says:

      I certainly think that public libraries could do a much better job of planning and marketing what it is that they do for and provide to the public. I also think that examining best practices from other public libraries is a very worthwhile process. However, given the intrinsic local nature of public library service I do not think that it is possible to develop an all-encompassing model of what a public library should look like and provide, and you will never get the entire profession to adopt one single vision of what a public library should be, and I think that is a good thing.

      The vision and idea of what a public library should be will always be determined on the local level. Yes, there are some underlying bedrock principles that apply to the profession of librarianship, but a public library is a community entity and the vision and mission should be determined by the needs of the members of the community. It is wonderful that your community in Maryland did an excellent job of determining what they wanted from their local public library, but the needs in my community (and in communities across the country) may be far different for a number of reasons.

    • Marilyn Jackson says:

      Dear Ms. Gross,

      I think you are underestimating the benefit that the libraries in Maryland have from being part of the Department of Education. You and the schools are already partners in structure which makes a true partnership much easier. Not every system is that fortunate. Also the size of the system plays a role. A larger system has a harder time both with new technology and with new practices. I work for a system that is preparing to test a model where not a single public desk job will require a library degree. For management positions an MBA will work as well. For the front line positions which currently include 117 librarian positions (full and part-time), the requirement will be 60 hours of higher education. 218 part-time positions will be eliminated. If we can succeed in applying for one of the new positions anyone on the Information staff is taking a 2-3 grade downgrade. I wish the Miami-Dade staff the best. I hope they can find the money to keep their system strong.

  7. At least they kept super vital stuff like E-books and Freegal.

  8. Debbie Graham says:

    This is further proof, after the Travyon decision, that Floridians are no longer trying to think.

  9. Eric Fitzgerald says:

    When will we see that education is more economical than the prisons? Sending resumes from the Public Library is better for the community than long term pubic assistance? All the people that don’t want to pay for a civilized society and then complain about how the roads are not maintained, the kids aren’t like they used to be and about all the “bums” laying around need to wake up!

    Many people trying to get work, learn a new skill or start a business begin that process at their local library. Kids in schools with strong libraries do better. These are just facts!

    We all hate to pay taxes, but do you really want that extra $200 in your pocket at the end of the year or do you want your home values to increase, the community you live in to thrive and the people around you to be happy, healthy and productive?

    Long term or short term you pay! Prisons, public assistance and failing communities or a little more tax now for schools, libraries and infrastructure? What happened to people building a better world for the next generation?

  10. Matt DiTomasso says:

    It is very sad that the poor urban areas that need libraries the most will be the first to lose them.

  11. James Dantro says:

    So goes the libraries, so goes the community. Why not raise the sales tax .25% and fund the library system with that increase. Many states pay far more than 7% sales tax.

    • we don’t need to raise taxes stop building roundabouts and the failing war on drugs and we will have ample moneys to build more libraries and pay our debts back 10 fold

    • @JamesDantro. We would just like for you to contact your family members
      And have concern for your own flesh and blood rather than worrying about taxes!

  12. Results of a new study on impacts of the proposed Miami Dade library closures, looking at the local communities where neighborhood libraries are slated to be closed:
    http://imaplibraries.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/who-loses-when-libraries-close/

  13. Tori Roi says:

    A few years ago, our school system hired a former administrator from Miami Dade as it’s new superintendent. I wanted to find out if this individual came from a school system that valued libraries. I was shocked to find that they had only one librarian for every 2000 students. Only high schools were accredited, a process that requires a full time library media specialist. Middle and elementary schools had to make due with a library clerk. I’m mentioning this because school and public libraries both play a valuable role in children’s education. Miami children are about to be dealt a double blow with fewer public library branches, in addition to seriously rationed library services in the public schools. Independent reading is vital if students are to become proficient readers. This is not where communities need to ration services. Taking away a positive will only mean more spending on the negatives up the road.

  14. Cut the Failing War on Drugs and use that money , 3 out of 4 people say the war on drugs is a failure anyway and that would save trillions of dollars that could be used for Rehabs instead of jail for people who want to clean there life up and would have plenty of money left over for education libraries and more ! Why the government doesn’t listen to it’s own people perplexes me.

  15. David Arthur Walters says:

    The local librarians seem to be reluctant to follow up on service issues, and some have indicated that they are afraid to express issues to the administration. Perhaps admin is understaffed and to busy to follow up on situations such as the following?

    Contact Information
    Dear David Arthur,
    Thank you for submitting your request!

    Please verify the information below and print this page for your records:
    First Name: David Arthur
    Last Name: Walters
    Telephone: REDACTED
    Email: davidarthurwalters@gmail.com
    Branch Visited: SOUTH SHORE
    Subject: Other
    Message: PRESS QUERY Following the computer upgrade at South Shore, researchers are unable to access information on other county online sites such as MDC appraiser info, MDC (and circuite) court info. In addition – and this was discussed with your IT head some time ago – Chase Bank accounts can be accessed at South Shore without the client being sent a code number via email or phone. The system is simply recognized at the bank without requiring the security procedure. Therefore, as I discussed with your IT head, someone with access to the library system can run millions of combinations until the regular password is found unless the bank protects its system against that. The main issue, however, is that county information cannot be accessed via the county library system, and local librarians are not inclined to follow up on it, therefore this. David Arthur Walters THE MIAMI MIRROR

    If you need to make any corrections, please click on the Back button.
    Back

    [THIS PAGE HAD NO FACILITY FOR VERIFICATION AS REQUESTED OR A “SEND” BUTTON SO IT IS UNKNOWN WHETHER THE MESSAGE WAS TRANSMITTED. 2013-08-08 DAW]

  16. J.Dantro2 says:

    @JamesDantro. We would just like for you to contact your family members
    And have concern for your own flesh and blood rather than worrying about taxes!

  17. In our society , there is a high percent of illiterate people, sadly…. some of these people are elected as leaders for the community. Politicians want to spend money in projects that fit their own interest , benefits. Public Libraries do not fall in any of those projects.