I don’t know much about Florida, other than it’s hot and its occasional voting irregularities cause problems for the rest of the country. From the recent news, I’m also guessing that library funding isn’t a top priority down there.
For example, Miami-Dade County, which at one point had threatened to close 22 of their library branches, is now only going to fire a bunch of people and cut library hours way back. That’s a pretty big county, right? I’m pretty sure it is, because I’ve heard of it.
Things don’t bode well for the future, either. The county library system is currently supported by a tax system separate from the rest of the country.
The mayor claims that “One way for the county to have more flexibility in managing the library budget is to dissolve the stand-alone taxing district that funds it and instead fold it into the general fund.”
That’s probably a good way to have more flexibility to take money apportioned for libraries and spend it elsewhere, but it probably won’t help the libraries any.
It doesn’t stop there. Lee County libraries are also firing people, cutting back hours, buying fewer books, and cancelling the interlibrary loan service. Maybe it’s too hot in Lee County for people to read anyway, because they’re going to have a lot fewer books available.
Then there’s Pasco County, also threatened with library closures.
And Brevard County, which is cutting employee hours so it doesn’t have to fund their health care under the Affordable Care Act. It seems you can’t swing a dead cat in Florida without hitting a county wanting to close libraries or cut staff.
Jacksonville isn’t to be left out, since it’s considering closing a couple of libraries.
I don’t know if Boca Raton is hurting for money, but they’re selling naming rights to their new library. I’m considering doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary $5 million, so that it could be called the Annoyed Librarian Library.
The cuts aren’t just confined to the “people’s university.” The University of South Florida in Tampa is cutting its hours way back. It’s not quite the tragedy it might be, since right now the library is open 24/5. But the 41,000 students on this campus won’t be pulling all nighters in the library anymore.
The students are protesting, of course, because that’s what students do, but student protests are usually about as effective as sitting quietly and drinking a nice cup of tea. Plus, there were only about 30 students at their library sit-in, and you can’t expect a big university to do much for just 30 students.
It’s like the entire state decided supporting libraries at their current standards is just too much trouble. A couple of years ago, the Huffington Post launched a hyperbolic site called Libraries in Crisis. The idea was that libraries all over the country were in danger.
That turned out not to be true, and the mass closings predicted by library Jeremiahs never occurred. Or maybe the Jeremiahs were really just talking about Florida, in which case, maybe they were right.