Almost every Saturday, I take the Metro-Mover to Government Center where I visit the Miami Main Library to return a book I borrowed and read the previous week. This routine is an important part of my life. I love the Main Library, especially its selection of Spanish Literature. Sometimes, I just sit on the floor and read a couple of poems from Benedetti or Neruda, or surprise myself with a Latin American poet whom I have never read. Miami-Dade County lacks a diversity of book stores, particularly spaces that encourage visitors to leisurely explore a range of topics and sit, reading in a quiet place. That’s one reason I love going to the library.
I also appreciate the communal aspect of the library, where I see and talk to people from different cultures, backgrounds, and ages. Every time I visit the library, it is filled with kids grabbing books with curiosity and enthusiasm. Sometimes their parents read books to them. There are even teenagers checking out the latest comic books.
The expertise of the library staff is incredible. They’ve managed to find books for me, even if I’ve forgotten the author or title and have to rely on the plot or character names! They willingly dig through stacks of books and quickly find exactly what I want.
Recently, I was on my way to the library when a friend of mine told me that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the County Commission are planning to close half of the libraries because, according to the Mayor, “the age of the library is probably ending”. Although the Mayor may honestly believe this, it goes against everything I experience during my weekly visits to the library.
How can the age of the library be ending with so much activity and community participation at our libraries? Perhaps Mayor Gimenez doesn’t visit the library regularly.
While downtown’s Main Library might not be on the list of closures, branches in neighborhoods throughout Miami-Dade play an important role for many individuals. What will happen to the children, students, residents, and neighbors who need these community centers to stay engaged and develop the skills to give back to the community? I am concerned for the many people who, like me, make a point of going to the library regularly and see it as a place for opportunity and excitement. Many of the children who live in underserved communities, who have always been adversely influenced by budget cuts, rely on the libraries as one of the only positive outlet available, the only weekend plan, and a chance to succeed.
Even more galling, when I visited the library this past weekend, I noticed a poster of Mayor Gimenez holding a book, with the word “READ” at the top of the poster. The irony was disheartening. Thanks for the advice, Mayor Gimenez, but thousands of Miami-Dade County residents won’t get the chance to read once you close half of our libraries.