What does it mean in real terms–in the impact on people’s lives–to lose almost half of a major city’s libraries?
Miami Dade County Libraries operates 49 library branch locations and two bookmobiles for a population of 2,496,435 people, making available free public wifi at every location plus 1,735 public computers throughout the library system. Each year, 6,762,294 people visit the libraries, borrowing 6,718,933 items annually, and librarians answer 7,108,830 questions per year.
Let’s get to know a little more about these 22 branch libraries slated for closure:
Some of these libraries have unique histories. Lemon City Branch Library, originally built in 1902, is one of the oldest public libraries in South Florida and was once called the “cradle of civilization for Southeast Florida.” Civic Center Branch Library is the first library worldwide ever to be built on an elevated transit system (it’s also known as the Civic Center Station Porta-Kiosk). West Kendall Regional Library has faced its doom once before, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Two thousand people attended its reopening ceremony in 1994.
Some of these libraries offer unique physical spaces and special resources. Virrick Park Branch Library is known for its beautiful stained glass decor and is situated near a park. Culmer/Overtown Branch Library has an in-depth Black culture collection including many out-of-print special items. Doral Branch Library has a “Big Cozy Books” room. West Kendall Regional Library provides a large auditorium for programs and special events. Model City Branch Library has an art display of museum quality African textiles and African sculpture, and special collections for adults and children on African-American history, culture and literature.
Many of these libraries serve diverse communities. North Shore Branch Library, situated two blocks from the Miami Beach seashore, serves a multicultural community which includes seasonal tourists from France, Canada and Germany. Fairlawn Branch Library serves Hispanic immigrants as well as seniors from West Miami, Fairlawn and Flagami. Model City Branch Library in Liberty City serves African-American, Haitian and Hispanic populations. Lemon City Branch Library is located in “Little Haiti” and Little River Branch Library is located in the heart of the Haitian community. Hialeah Gardens Branch Library serves a largely Hispanic community. Many libraries offer special programs tailored to their communities such as Spanish language computer classes at Hialeah Gardens Branch Library, Concord Branch Library, and Palm Springs North Branch Library. Little River Branch Library offers computer literacy classes for seniors.
The libraries offer places for kids to study, learn, and play. Culmer/Overtown Branch Library was Miami-Dade’s first child-focused branch, with 60% of the collection devoted to items for kids. Shenandoah Branch Library offers a Reading Ready Early Literacy center with interactive play-to-learn resources. Many of the libraries also provide special programs for kids and teens, such as Summer Reading programs and other special events. Little River Branch Library offers storytelling, crafts, book discussion, and homework help for kids. Concord Branch Library provides arts & crafts, puppet shows, and classes such as scrapbooking. Lakes of the Meadows Branch Library is the public library serving school children from G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School and Jane S. Roberts Elementary School, and recently offered a Book Discussion Group and a Teen Game Day. A Live Teen Rock Performance event as well as storytimes in English and Spanish, and summer reading programs are offered at West Kendall Regional Library. Shenandoah Branch Library has programs for children and teens in areas such as art, literacy, crafts, games, anime and manga, and at Country Walk Branch Library, special programs focus on babies, toddlers, and reading-ready early literacy toddler storytimes, and there are computers with software for early literacy skill development such as matching, color identification, word recognition and preschool games.
These 22 libraries also offer a local “safety net” of free access to computers, wifi and Internet for local communities. For example, 8 computer terminals and 6 laptops are available at Sunset Branch Library; 21 computers at Fairlawn Branch Library; more than 25 computers at South Shore Branch Library; 16 computers and 20 laptops at Shenandoah Branch Library; and 54 computers at West Kendall Regional Library. Model City Branch Library includes two literacy computers to enhance reading and writing comprehension, and two multimedia computers with word-processing capabilities. California Club Mall Branch Library has 20 computers and 6 laptops. These libraries also offer workshops to help with resume writing and job search, as for example at Little River Branch Library, North Shore Branch Library, South Shore Branch Library, Lakes of the Meadows Branch Library and Tamiami Branch Library in West Dade.
In Miami-Dade, and elsewhere around the country, it’s time to start telling the story of our individual library branches in local communities. Let’s collect and share the data that tells the story of the impact ALL our local libraries are making on people’s lives.