Bookleggers' Founder Nathaniel Sandler on Miami's Library Closings: "I Think It's Shameful"

Categories: Books

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Nathaniel Sandler
Earlier this month, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez reversed his stance on raising property taxes. Now he wants to close almost half of our public libraries. Many of those libraries are in low-income neighborhoods, and their closure will affect poor adults who rely on the library system for online access, as well as children, who depend on library programming and books.

Nathaniel Sandler is a founding member of Bookleggers, a successful mobile library celebrating its one-year anniversary this Sunday at the Broken Shaker. He also freelances for the University of Miami Special Collections library and writes for WLRN, for which he recently penned a scathing critique of the mayor's plans. And August 13, Sandler will lecture at Locust Projects about the future of libraries, which he believes are not as disposable as the mayor apparently thinks.

We caught up with the bibliophile to talk about the ongoing library debate.

New Times: How do you feel about the mayor trying to close almost half of our libraries?
Nathaniel Sandler: I think it's shameful. Budget cuts are budget cuts, but the reality is that his message is an affront to our shared heritage and, more important, the underserved communities in Miami. If you're truly broke and need to make your life better, you probably don't have a computer and the cash for a monthly bill to a huge internet providing company. Not everyone can afford a $60 monthly Comcast bill for the internet. So you go to a library. Libraries logged a million hours of internet use in Miami-Dade. Those are people who don't have computers or online access at home -- is Gimenez's mindset just "screw them"? I guess so. It seems inhumane for the power brokers to put everything online and then systematically begin taking away free access to information.

You're right. Nationwide, 30 percent of households don't have internet access at home, and the rates are higher for minorities. According to the U.S. Census, almost half of Hispanic and black households don't have internet access at home. We're supposed to be this burgeoning "international" city. We should be opening libraries, not closing them. And you can't say "go to an internet café," because they also cost money, and there's currently a ban on them.
Most people don't understand that libraries aren't just books. There's free internet access, original and irreplaceable archival material, and places where kids and families and schoolteachers build community. Every book in the library isn't on the internet. They're just not.

Location Info

The Broken Shaker

2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, FL

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WhyNotNow topcommenter

Btw, thank you for your work, mr.sandler.

WhyNotNow topcommenter

The problem is the people making the decisions could care less. It is similar to the issue of public transportation. No one making decisions there would ever consider riding the bus, just as none of those making a decision about the libraries would ever go to one. They live in huge houses, drive bmw's and wait for their gold plated benefits package to kick in, so they can party like its 1999. Their motto is, fuck the citizens.


The majority of our public doesn't yet realize what is being stolen from them. Tax dollars for over forty years went to building a community network of shared resources.  

The Mayor and seven out of the 12 County Commissioners' want to dissolve this 49 branch network. For decades, which ends this October, a resident in the taxing district, could use any of the county branches. The system now span the four corners of the 2,000 square mile county - from Aventura to Homestead, from West Kendall by Krome Avenue to Key Biscayne. 8 million visitors walked into the 49 locations last year.

Our Mayor, and the seven who voted to underfund the library, will obliterate sharing amongst the richest and poorest cities. The county wants out of the business of running libraries. Past investments of millions of tax dollars be damned.

With their entourage to do their research, why would they use the public library? Of course all eight of them show up for photos with them reading to groups of children and also to cut the ribbon at library Grand Openings. Will even one of them show up for 16 Grand Closings?

To know what's being done to save your libraries:

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