As many as 250 residents and children from across the county gathered in Cooper Park in West Miami on Friday, June 27, to call on county commissioners to fund Miami-Dade’s libraries. The system faces a $20 million budget shortfall, and if commissioners do not vote to restore funding for the system on July
15, when they vote on a new budget for the coming year, as many as 19 libraries could close, branches across the system could see their hours reduced, and 250 trained full-time library staff could be laid off.
The public library system already has suffered from budget cuts that call into question whether certain popular resources and services will be available to Miami-Dade residents as early as next year, if the county commission does not restore funding to the system.
“We want to let county commissioners know that it is okay to do the right thing for Miami-Dade on July 15, and we want to thank them for their support,” said Ellen Book, a librarian and president of Community Advocates for Libraries in Miami (CALM), one of the event’s cosponsors.
Despite being invited to the event, none of Miami-Dade’s county commissioners attended.
“It’s disappointing none of the commissioners could make it, but we hope they understand how essential our libraries and their staff are to our community,” said Patricia Martinez-Gormley of Miami Lakes.
Organizers said the purpose of the event, which was titled “Storytime @ the Park,” was to raise awareness about those very programs that are at risk if the libraries are not fully funded. It included a puppet show, arts and crafts, and interactive story telling by several library staff and special guests. In addition to the child-friendly activities on public display in Cooper Park, library advocates and community members are concerned other resources such as computers and free adult literacy programs could face cuts.
In a press release sent out by organizers, Terry Murphy, advocacy chair for Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library, said, “We’ve invited county commissioners to attend and see for themselves that the community loves its libraries. Our libraries are utilized everyday by thousands, many of which do not have access to resources at home. Where will they go if the library is closed when they need it?”
A petition appealing to commissioners to vote to fully fund the library system has been circulated and has garnered several hundred signatures, including 192 that were signed at the June 27 event. Storytime @ the Park was cohosted by Community Advocates for Libraries in Miami (CALM) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 199.