|Blast from the past photo of Lynda Bell - Note her choice of her favorite book.|
Two recent memos from the Miami-Dade County Mayor's office describe the Miami-Dade library of the future without librarians. The buildings are to evolve into technology centers, homework centers, or anything without the name "library."
What is needed is the reinstatement of the library special taxing district’s 2010-2011 tax millage, which adequately funded the entire network spanning Homestead to Aventura, Key Biscayne to West Kendall.
In 2011, the Mayor and BCC directed the library to operate on 1/2 millage and 1/2 saved reserves for two years. The reserves were to be used for renovations of buildings such as Coral Reef, Miami Lakes, Homestead and Kendall Branches. The implied promise was that the millage would be restored in 2013 so that the library would not be essentially bankrupted. That almost happened until the Mayor reversed course.
Prior to this millage cut of 2011, the library was financially healthy. The rest of the “county family,” however, totaled $250 million in the red. To ease the debt, the Mayor and BCC approved the movement of $11.7 million from the library’s special taxing district (which doesn’t collect from Hialeah, N. Miami, NMB, Miami Shores, Bal Harbour Village, Bay Harbor and Surfside) to a general fund’s Dept. of Cultural Affairs. The money was not to be used for grants outside of the library’s taxing district.
According to the two memos, half of the trained staff and half of the network of libraries are removed or retooled for MDPLS to be "sustainable" for next three years with an annual budget of $28 million.
With seven Commissioners and the Mayor dead-ending conversations with "No tax increase" there have been no answers except for the radical disassembling of 40 years of work and neighborhood cooperative sharing.
Something is missing and it's one group of stakeholders. The professional librarians were not asked how to fill in a $24 million gap left by this situation. So, we wish to offer this to everyone for an honest discussion. We wish to change the dialog from the destruction of resources to the downsizing and streamlining of county services within the allotted budget.
To raise immediate funds for the library, (which even considers the drop of carryover revenue over year two and three,) here are several suggestions:
1- Savings $2 million: Delay the opening of the Northeast Library located in Aventura from the 2nd quarter until October 1, 2014, to save $540,000 in salaries though it should be close to $2 million for operating expenses.
2- Savings $10.761 million: Take over 311 operations and the administrative support to the library to operate. The library is an information portal for the county. The trained library staff are positioned to answer any reference question. Promoting 311 along with library services encourages greater use. We will use the same computer software to help people who physically walk in. You can get 311 face to face. The public is able to meet the person doing the follow up and getting the answer. MDPLS already helps connect citizens with local, state, and federal government online thousands of times a day. Taxpayers save money because we do not need an expensive call center. Political campaigns and telemarketers have moved away from call centers for years. If campaigns and telemarketers use simple software so workers can field calls from home then library staff can do the same from any branch in the county. Why are we operating a huge call center when the same type of political campaigns county officials use to get elected are steadily discarding the call center model?
3- Savings approximately $5 million. Per affirmation from the two unions, furlough a majority of staff for the month of December, statistically the slowest in usage. Currently all staff take eight furlough days. Add 12 during the holidays to allow staff to be hired by retail establishments looking for temp workers. All staff get to spend the holidays with family and friends. Schedule major maintenance projects during this period. The message to the community is that staff are willing to pay this high price to work in an intact library system. Compiling furlough days to create a dark period has been implemented in other library systems.
4- Savings $5.1 million. Exit the county's lease to MDPLS for the Main Library building and move administration and collections amongst Regional branches. The two other Cultural Center’s tenants, History Miami and MAM, were charged rent that was either returned via a grant from the Dept. of Cultural Affairs or not charged rent at all. Since this appears to be a shifting of dollars from a special taxing district to the general county fund, MDPLS benefits from vacating the premises located next to County Hall. This amount has been 20% of the current millage allotment to MDPLS.
5- Savings $500,000. Reduce GSA/ Internal Services Dept. fees accordingly to match the decreased amount of millage. Currently it is scaled to a larger millage amount from previous fiscal years.
6- Earnings $2.00 / transaction. Place ATM machines at branch locations.
7- In the name of fairness, return the $11.7 million taken from Library reserves for the Department of Cultural Affairs in 2010-11. We won’t even mention the lost interest on that amount.