The campaign to save Miami-Dade County libraries worked.
In a surprise last-minute move, Miami-Dade commissioners decided in the wee hours Wednesday morning to raid rainy-day reserves to avoid laying off 169 library workers and slashing library hours in the coming budget year.
Though the action will save the jobs of employees who turned out in force to a public hearing that began Tuesday afternoon, it will create a whopping $20 million budget hole next year to fund the county’s 49 public libraries at the same level as this year.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned against tapping the one-time reserves, since they would not be available again to cover recurring expenses. Unless Miami-Dade overhauls the way it funds and runs the libraries between now and next year, commissioners will have to cut services or hike the property-tax rate in 12 months.
“It’s on us,” Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell said, acknowledging the burden the board agreed to take on. “It’s our responsibility.”
Libraries are more than just quiet places to read. They are community gathering places, and for a lot of people without access to the internet, it’s their only way of getting on-line. That may sound like a luxury, but a lot of services such as job placement, public information, and things we on the wired/wireless side take for granted are only available to them through the public libraries. It truly is a public service.