The main rationale behind keeping Floridians stupid is that it is easier to make money off the public if ordinary people are in the dark. Give people an education -- as might happen with libraries -- and sow the seeds of dissent with the established order.
I have a first-hand recollection to share on the subject: not with libraries but with another contested avenue of education: public radio.
I moved to Key West with my family from the northeast in 1988. I missed public radio, and so I set out to see what could be done about bringing public radio to the Keys. I visited with the WLRN station manager at the time who explained that extending the signal to the Keys depended on obtaining support from the Monroe County school board and that there had never been energy applied in Keys to recruit their support. The license for public radio in South Florida is held by the Miami-Dade school board.
Naively, I pursued the issue with Monroe County school board members. National public radio, like libraries, is an invaluable source of information and news, opening peoples' eyes to a wider world. (It is also hotly opposed by the radical GOP right.) No one would return my calls. I tried to engage some local Conchs with influence. They said: no one in the Keys wants to listen to school board meetings in Miami.
Finally, one school board member from Key West pulled me aside. He said to me, "It's not about opposition to broadcasting Miami school board meetings in the Keys. Look around you. What do you see?" I wasn't prepared for what he said, next. "There is a culture of keeping people stupid in the Keys. The powerful people know all about public radio. When they go to Miami, or New York, or Washington, they listen to it. They just don't want it, here."
Eventually -- with more letter writing and without fanfare -- public radio was extended to the Keys. I never forgot the lesson of this first foray into the margins of public life. The closing of Miami-Dade libraries calls back a history -- deeply racist, deeply patriarchal -- keeping people stupid is a Florida tradition.
In closing libraries, Mayor Gimenez slips neatly into a path that winds toward power as naturally as a sunflower tracks the arc of the sun.
We do what we can to shed light from this blog -- a kind of samizdat in the land of plenty. I'm sure that people could go to the library to either read a book or check on a computer what "samizdat" means, but for that to happen, the libraries would have to be funded and open. Ain't gonna happen in Miami-Dade.