Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade taps new library director amid surge in revenue

Little Havana residents enjoy a Saturday afternoon at the Hispanic branch of the Miami-Dade library system in this 2010 file photo.
Little Havana residents enjoy a Saturday afternoon at the Hispanic branch of the Miami-Dade library system in this 2010 file photo. El Nuevo Herald

A veteran administrator in county government will take over Miami-Dade’s library system next month.

Ray Baker, who spent 15 years in various county departments before joining the library system in 2015, was named interim library director Wednesday by Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Baker will replace outgoing director Gia Arbogast, who is retiring in February after more than 30 years working for the county library system.

Arbogast took the top job in 2014 after her predecessor, Raymond Santiago, retired. Baker now is on the same track as Arbogast: holding the interim title, with the expectation of getting the job permanently in the coming months.

“The mayor felt very comfortable giving Ray this time to show what he can do,” said Michael Spring, the Gimenez deputy who supervises the library system. “He’s been very pleased with the new life that Gia has breathed into our library system, and the team she assembled to do that. Ray came aboard as a hire of Gia’s.”

During the time of Arbogast’s appointment in 2014, Miami’s Knight Foundation urged Gimenez to conduct a national search to pick Santiago’s successor. Gimenez rejected the idea, extending his practice of picking internal candidates for most department openings. A Knight spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

At the time of Sanitago’s retirement, the library was facing a budget crisis that was averted by a 64 percent increase in the property tax that funds the system. Combined with higher real estate values, the county’s library budget soared from $49 million in 2014 to $73 million this year, a nearly 50 percent increase.

Under Arbogast, the library revved up renovation projects, dramatically increased money spent acquiring books and digital media and opened a second location for its popular Youmedia digital center.

Baker joined the county government in 1999 as a budget analyst, and then moved up the ranks to become chief of policy and legislation for Miami-Dade’s Internal Services department. In 2015, Arbogast brought him over to the library department as assistant director. He holds a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Florida, according to Gimenez’s memo to commissioners announcing Baker’s hire.

Lynn Summers, president of the non-profit Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library, praised Baker as a strong manager who has been a boon to the county libraries under Arbogast. “Ray is a star,” she said. “In the past two years, he’s lived up to his prior reputation of being an excellent and innovative administrator.”

This post was updated to correct where Ray Baker obtained a masters in library and information science.