Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor unveils task force to study future of public libraries

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration has come up with a task force and a timeline to tackle challenges faced by the county’s cash-strapped public libraries.

County commissioners were able to save the libraries from significant budget cuts this summer by finding money to keep them afloat one more year. But by next year, the library system faces a projected $21 million hole, Gimenez said in a memo late Tuesday.

“We have a very short timeline to define how we will address the steep financial cliff that the Library Department will face in less than 12 months,” he said.

His memo outlined a blue-ribbon task force that he would chair to study the libraries’ programs, operations and funding. The task force’s recommendations, due in February, would then help the county draft a long-term master plan for the system by July.

The 17-member task force would begin meeting this month. Members would represent a variety of organizations and interested groups, including library employees.

Most members would be from outside County Hall, including representatives from civic groups such as the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Miami Foundation and the Children’s Trust; the philanthropic Knight Foundation; the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs in the school district; the Alliance for Aging, and four cities.

Also represented in four working groups would be the school system, universities, the AARP, a crime-watch group, the NAACP, a workforce agency and the Save the Miami-Dade Libraries group — which protested proposed budget cuts this summer.

The working groups would report to the task force. One group would examine the service model, including days and hours of operation. Another would focus on programming. A third would examine funding. A fourth would look into advocacy and marketing.

Gimenez’s administration also plans to survey employees, library patrons and residents who don’t use the libraries. And it plans to hold monthly conference calls with national and state organizations, including the American Library Association and the Florida Library Association, to seek their advice.

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