Over the past few years, the Miami-Dade Public Library has faced the brutal reality of continually decreased funding in a time when more and more citizens have been utilizing the library. Several coalitions emerged due to this discrepancy, including Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries on Facebook and the Coalition to Save Our Libraries, to battle the anti-tax sentiment in Miami-Dade County. With the use of community action, utilizing social networking to raise awareness, letters to the editors, and protests at commission meetings, these groups and their supporters were able to change the perception about libraries. On September 18, 2014, funding for the libraries elevated to $54 million for FY2015.
A Change.org petition made the rounds on the Internet to make Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan aware of the number of supporters for keeping the libraries open. At one point in 2013 it appeared that 22 of the branches out of 49 would be closed. 169 library employees were also to lose their jobs under Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ proposed budget. At this time grass root efforts really kicked in and large protests arose. Unfortunately, even though the libraries were not shuttered at that point, the budget issues reappeared in 2014.
Undaunted and refusing to give up, the advocacy efforts to save Miami-Dade Public Libraries continued into 2014. President of the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library John Quick wrote an editorial in the Huffington Post as the situation gained national attention. Yale Professor Carlos Eire wrote a letter to the Miami Herald entitled Libraries Save Lives. In this letter, Eire states that one of the branches of the system was a refuge for him in the 1960s. Like many of us who loved libraries as kids, he still remembers details of the building vividly. Almost every effort improves when prominent people step forward to vouch for it and this editorial ultimately persuaded Mayor Gimenez and other County officials to rethink the library budget situation.
For now, the advocacy efforts for Miami-Dade Public Library have had a successful conclusion. The library is more important than ever in this community, as witnessed by this recent article wich shows that many kids need the library for homework since they lack Internet access at home. Many readers of this blog are already drinking the library Kool-Aid, but it is still important to bear in mind that not everyone gets why libraries matter. Utilizing advocacy efforts to your advantage can save your library, but ultimately it is more important to be on the offensive showing your community the importance of your institution at all times. Major brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Taco Bell know this and never stop repeating their consumer message. Now is the time to create your own catchy library jingle.