Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade library hours to be slashed

About a third of Miami-Dade’s public libraries would open less than half the time they do now under a draft plan county administrators sent commissioners Tuesday.

To keep all 49 libraries open — with 169 fewer employees, who would be laid off — the county is considering drastically cutting hours at 16 branches. Those branches would open a mere 16 hours a week, compared to their current 40 hours. Most of the branches had previously been targeted for potential closure.

As a result, some branches would share staffs with nearby branches. Librarians would work in one facility in the morning, close it and then open a nearby facility for the afternoon.

“We have made every effort on this initial draft to develop schedules around a geographical cluster approach with the intent of having an open library Monday through Saturday available to our residents within 1 to 3 miles of their neighborhood library,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote commissioners in a memo.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan had requested a draft of the schedules and staffing at a meeting Monday.

In addition to geography, Gimenez said his administration took into account how many people visited each branch, during what peak hours and which special programs are offered at each location. Some libraries, for example, are more frequented by seniors in the mornings. Others are hubs for children after school.

The proposed hours and staffing could be refined over the next month. The final 2013-14 budget will be approved by commissioners after two public hearings in September.

The library department faced painful cuts after commissioners heeded Gimenez’s recommendation to keep the property-tax rate flat. The mayor warned 22 branches could close but ultimately found ways — largely by slashing staff and shrinking the Main Library in downtown Miami — to keep all libraries open at least some of the time.

The Main Library would take the biggest staffing hit under the draft plan, losing 23 of 39 librarians. Its hours would be reduced to 40 from 48.