Gov. Rick Scott’s budget not pro-libraries (Part 2)

"Rick Scott - Caricature" by DonkeyHotey, via Creative Commons

“Rick Scott – Caricature” by DonkeyHotey, via Creative Commons

My sincerest apologies for the missed post last week, everyone. I had a personal issue to attend to, but it’s been resolved and I’m back on track. Unfortunately, Rick Scott won the position as Florida governor. Given that, I’ll skip my whole Charlie Crist section and focus on what Scott has in store for us.

In “Governor Rick Scott’s FY 2014-2015 Recommended Budget Highlights,” he said he will continue to support Florida public libraries with a recommended $24.7 million.

It’s big money for us, but not nearly enough to keep libraries in top working condition.

According to a Miami Herald article earlier this year, “Without more tax dollars, Miami-Dade County’s library system would fire 56 percent of its full-time staff and bring on part-time workers to operate branches that will see hours cut by an average of 35 percent…”

Rather than increasing “the special property tax,” the plan was to cripple the library system. I say “cripple” because without funding to update services and materials, it will become obsolete.

In another article, it states Miami-Dade public libraries is spending 90 percent less on children’s books than they have in previous years. This is problematic because many families turn to libraries to look for books for school, but some now have to turn to Amazon or other sources to find them because the library doesn’t have enough funding to get the latest books or even have enough books for all of the branches.

Just this Friday, I looked in the library system to get a copy of “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn for my book club, but all 85 English hard copies were checked out and 109 people have it on hold. That’s not even a book for school. What happens when a young student needs “Night” by Elie Wiesel for class, finds they’re all checked out and can’t afford to buy it?

“Library systems serving more than 1 million people typically invest about $600,000 a year on children’s books,” reported Douglas Hanks. “Despite a population topping 2 million, Miami-Dade children’s budget falls much closer to the $66,000 average that the [Library Journal] calculated for libraries serving communities of 100,000 people – about the size of Miami Gardens.”

I’m extremely worried because signs point to Scott not being in any sort of rush to supply libraries with the extra necessary funds to stay afloat. In the first line of the first paragraph of his recommended budget, Scott says he’s about “tax and fee cuts, eliminate[ing] government waste and pay[ing] down debt.”

I’m all for eliminating waste and paying down debt, but a tax increase is necessary to keep libraries in working order.

True, libraries are underused in our city, but perhaps they’re underused because people found they don’t have the books we need.

Whenever a semester started, the first place I would look for textbooks would be the library. If they didn’t have it, then I would turn to a used book store, then the internet.

And if their argument for cutting back on library money is that books are dead so we won’t have to buy as many, there are a couple holes in that argument. First, there is a large population that still uses print books, specially the poor and underprivileged that don’t have access to e-readers. Second, we need properly trained staff that is equipped to help patrons with evolving technologies available at these locations. Finally, libraries offer much more than books, they offer vital services such as resume writing workshops, gardening workshops and workshops on other essential skills that would better the community. If funding is cut, the workshops will be cut too.

As it stands, I don’t think the library is open enough. I work long hours during the week, and by the time I have time to go to the library, it’s closed. Sundays I often find myself wishing they were open.

Going back to Rick Scott, I foresee a battle coming on. For now, keep going to your local library and show him via numbers that libraries are still relevant.

If you would like to help financially, you can donate to Friends of Miami-Dade Public Library on Give Miami Day on Nov. 20, visit the Friends’ Booth at the Miami Book Fair International from Nov. 21-23, or buy books at the Friends’ Annual Book Sale on Dec. 10-13. Additionally, you can donate used books to the library.