Library Supporters Rally to Fight $20 Million Cuts at Budget Meeting This Morning

Categories: Politicks

Thumbnail image for library4.jpg.jpg
Photo by C.A. Mendieta via Wikimedia Commons
Let the library funding wars begin.

At 9:30 this morning, the Miami-Dade County Finance Committee will meet for a first discussion on budgets for the upcoming fiscal year -- chief among them the county's beleaguered library system, which is facing a further $20 million cut without new taxes. Activists and library supporters are urging like-minded residents to make noise at the hearing.

See also: Ex-Librarian Blames Miami-Dade Public Library Director for Budget Woes

Today's meeting marks the first time the public -- led by groups such as the Coalition to Save Our Libraries -- is able to voice its concerns directly to the county.

"This is where the commissioners get a first taste of what the community support is like for the libraries," Rebecca Wakefield, a library activist (and former New Times staff writer), tells Riptide. Wakefield, a single mom who counts on the library system as an important resource, expects at least 30 or 40 people to turn out to the meeting in the county commission chambers to advocate for increased funding.

To really get back up to speed, she says, the library system would need to see its budget raised from its current $50 million to at least $64 million -- or just roughly $20 a year in increased millage taxes for county property owners.

Today's meeting is the first of many before a county budget is eventually set in July. If no new funding is appropriated, the already bare-bones library system would likely drastically reduce hours at many branches. Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said he won't back new taxes without a public referendum on the issue; his worst-case scenario proposal for the libraries calls for 56 percent of full-time staff getting laid off and hours cut by 35 percent.

The cuts would be a glaring contradiction, Wakefield says, for county politicians who are loathe to raise taxes but always eager to portray themselves as library supporters -- often with portraits strategically placed inside county library branches.

"I don't want to see a picture of the mayor holding a book in my library if the library is open only a handful of hours and I can't get in there," she says. "That to me would be a slap in the face."

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This fight isn't about libraries no longer being useful or used. It not about libraries being obsolete. A library is as vibrant as the incredible resources bought with shared public funding. Do you have a 3-D printer? Broward County Library System does and it's in their makerspace. Google makerspace to find out about it, then go to the library to experience it.

While surrounded by his Blue Ribbon Panel on libraries, Mayor Gimenez said that children and the elderly are important; and then he told the truth and said "It's all about politics." The pitiful state of county libraries is the story of one mayor who thought that he should restore some budget to fire, libraries and give the 500,000 voters the full promise of the Pet's Trust, but then turned scared of "a couple dozen letters", conservative radio and the Miami Herald's headline. After no discussion with the Board of County Commission, but taking his cue from a marketing company paid with county dollars to robo-call 1,500 land lines, Mayor Carlos Gimenez turned his back on services to residents. It's about stadiums for tourists. He said that the poor have to choose between eating cat food or paying for libraries ($17.25 per $100,000 worth of house) yet he makes unilateral deals to subsidize four billionaires who own soccer, basketball, baseball and football teams. Libraries are just collateral damage from a Mayor gone amok.

Andres Cofiño
Andres Cofiño

My children go every week to the library. Libraries serve the community and more people use the library than go to Miami High, it serves me no purpose and let's see how long the renovation lasts with these "respectful" children we have especially in that area.

Gabriel Veg
Gabriel Veg

Miami High is an architectural gem, historical landmark and serves a purpose. Libraries are almost empty because most people download books digitally nowadays or access information on the internet. They are expensive buildings used by almost no one.

Carrie Rivera
Carrie Rivera

Yet they spent millions to restore Miami high lol.


I think you are among the non-users of libraries, because the entire time I worked as a librarian, there were at least 300 people in my tiny branch each day.   As a retiree, I go to the library and every time I do, there are people in there.   


When was the last time you were in a public library? I've yet to see an "almost empty" library!


It's a different "they" ... the MD Public School System ... that restored Miami High.  Interestingly, though, the Public Schools have cut back their own libraries and offloaded this responsibility on ... wait for it ... the Public Libraries.  Even more reason to fund MDPLS adequately.

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