Miami-Dade County

Upgrades planned next year for Miami-Dade libraries

Miami-Dade’s library budget seems to be undergoing a more favorable rewrite.

This week, library administrators released a draft schedule that would restore seven-day service at the county’s largest branches. A new budget document reveals plans to add a sixth day to seven smaller branches, beef up the system’s paltry acquisitions budget and expand Bookmobile routes.

The plan is labeled a draft, and it’s unclear how many of the enhancements Miami-Dade can actually afford. Though county commissioners last month cleared the way to increase the library tax this fall, the higher rate would only mean about $3 million more for the system’s current $50 million budget. Miami-Dade’s libraries have relied on cash reserves since a 2011 cut in the library tax, and those surplus dollars are forecast to be gone by the time the new budget year begins Oct. 1.

The two-page document released Wednesday lays out a string of improvements library administrators hope to make with the higher funding. Also mentioned: expanding the popular YouMedia program to the South Dade branch, wireless printing at 10 libraries, establishing two “maker spaces” for design and art projects, and creating a “Geek Squad” that would bring technology services to “high-need” communities.

Branches in Miami Beach, North Dade, South Dade, West Dade and West Kendall would open six days a week instead of the current five-day schedule. Administrators also will “explore” restoring service at the California Club branch slated to close Sept. 1. The branch rents space in a strip mall where rents are increasing, but the new plan is to try to find an alternative location in the neighborhood, according to the document.

In an email, Miami-Dade cultural director Michael Spring emphasized the upgrades are only in the planning stage. The document “is a draft and definitely a work in progress,” he wrote. “It does provide a clear idea of the direction that we are working on with the Library for the use of the proposed additional funds.”

— DOUGLAS HANKS

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