Your library is closing but don’t worry, there’s an app for that.
There are times where I am at a loss of words and yet, still get dumbfounded by those who are making decisions about my livelihood and the role of the Miami Dade Public Libraries in the future. Before I go into more recent news, I want to go back to an incident back in 2007. I started working for the library system back in 2006 as a page. While I was enrolled in library school and interviewed for the full-time Librarian 1 position, there was a hiring freeze. It wasn’t until 2008 that I was promoted to a Librarian 1 position. During 2007, there was an intern/trainee meeting for those librarians to meet up with our peers and talk with our mentors. I attended one of those meeting and the library director showed. He had a chat with us and then he opened the floor to us to ask any questions.
Since I was a podcaster and worked on a business plan while getting my MBA, I thought about pitching the idea of having podcasts be part of library services. I talked about the low-cost of production, a minimum need of equipment, and how we can generate revenue by having audio ads and sponsors for the podcast. This was my opportunity to shine and I took it. He gave some approval for the podcast. He saw some benefits to do something with it but the director shot down my idea about the revenue aspect. As he put it, of course I’m paraphrasing, when firefighters start having bakes sales then we’ll look at this option in the future. I’m not saying this would have saved the library system today but sometimes people get complacent and do not think of long term goals or have alternate plans for the future. ‘Nuff said.
Posted by our local channel 10 tv station, posted this memorandum on their website about the budget issue. This was dated July 25, 2013.
The mayor starts off the memorandum talking about how the strong vote from the commissioners change his proposed millage rate. He then stressed the point about the difficult work ahead to close up to 22 library branches and cut 251 positions. On the same token, he mentioned that while he was open for recommendation and feedback but used the criteria of fiscal and programmatic viability. Basically, can we afford to keep libraries open? We know the answer to be no. While this is not finalized, there is little recourse in this matter. Why?
On July 30, 2013, the BCC (Board of County Commissioners) meeting was cancelled. This public meeting was to be a reconsideration meeting to have the BCC possible reconsider their millage rate decision. Here’s what it reads in the calendar of events for the BCC.
The Mayor has indicated that he will not be exercising his veto authority respective to the items that appeared on the July 16, 2013, Board of County Commissioners’ meeting agenda. Therefore, pursuant to Section 2-1, Rule 3.01(b) of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida, notice is given that the July 30, 2013, Regular Meeting of the BCC is cancelled upon receipt of the seven required signatures provided to the Clerk of the Board.
The mayor was the one proposed to cancel the meeting and several commissioners signed off on the cancellation. He wanted his staff to continue to work on the 2013-2014 budget without interruptions. There will be another BCC meeting but not until August 29, 2013. What does say to me? The budget has been decided and will be finalized as such before October 1. While there is growing support not to close the library, the public will not be heard until August 29 to change the commissioners mind. That will seem unlikely as the board will not do a turn around and then drum up a new budget within a month’s time. In the meantime, you can speak to the mayor in person as he is planning on doing a couple of town hall meetings ironically in public libraries. Yes, you can have your word with the mayor but it will not mean anything as it was noted that he will do nothing to override the BCC.
Continuing with the memorandum, the mayor plans out the future of libraries beyond 2013.
The criteria of sustainable fiscal framework stick out at me at this indicates yet again, can we afford to keep libraries open? Yes, the library plays an important part of residents lives everyday but how can you quantify this as justification to keep a library open? The chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners gave her response to the Mayor’s memorandum. One of the things she noted was to, “Examine patron’s use of the facilities for WiFi and computers vs. printed materials checkout.” Why is she comparing the usage of the library as separate issues? As is one has more merit than the other; it doesn’t. My needs to use the library would be different from a kid, or someone out of work, or someone who is homeless but in the end, we all use the library. More to the point, how exactly does this examination going to save the libraries? Why is this being requested now in the 11th hour as opposed to the beginning of this fiscal year or even two years ago when I was laid off? How holistic is this approach going to be within a sustainable fiscal framework?
We get an app.
Under the technology and connectivity section of the memorandum, the mayor noted that the library system, ITD Information Technology Department) and CIAO (Community Information and Outreach), will be working to enhance the online service including the development of an app that will inform the public of the nearest open library and the services and schedules of each site. That’s right, you can do everything online as you don’t need x amount of librarian and x amount of libraries. You can do it all from your app.
Years ago, there was a commissioner who said that his son didn’t need the library because he had internet at his house. Good for FUCKING you! Not everyone has the luxury of having the same basic needs being met. Tell me how an app is going to help you find work when you can not afford a computer or internet? Tell me how is an app going to help you teach to your child to read? Tell me how an app is going to help you if are homeless? Tell me how an app is going to save my job?
Technology is not a means to an end and not the end all and be all solution. You still need people. Apps don’t build relationships with the community; librarians do. I am all for working smarter not harder. There is always room for improvement. In fact, the last SEFLIN conference I attended Jamie LaRue, the library director of Douglas County Library in Denver, talked about making his branches from efficient when it would take 4 days for a returned book to make its way back in the shelves. In a nutshell, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology helped reduce the workload and reduced the need for a circulation desk. This had a ripple effect that transformed the library into a leaner and more productive machine. I will not be talking about this in entry as I want to get more information on the process. I will say this, I know for a fact that several years ago, my library system was looking at adopting RFID but it was deemed too expensive. Now, had the library made that investment years ago, I strongly believe that my library system would not be facing this extreme measure today.
More news to follow as it develops.