We here at Cultist looooooove libraries, but we'd be lying if we said we stepped foot in one more than once in the past year. Because we are learned, we can identify that as a problem.
We're not really alone. Of the 2,496,435 people in Miami-Dade, only 1,084,841 are registered. Not too long ago, there was talk of cutting the Miami-Dade County Public Library system budget, but overwhelming support from voters like you for something so drastic as tax hikes to keep the system running smoothly have changed the discussion from cutting back to total rehaul.
The Knights and Miami Foundations held a special panel discussion and conference luncheon on Monday to see how other cities have successfully revamped their libraries into the digital age, and it got us thinking. How could the Miami-Dade Public Library System improve? Here are some of our ideas.
Community Gardening Spaces
We love gardening, but it's very hard to get a good green space going on a tiny balcony. We'd love to have a space where we can experiment with season fruits and veggies, as well as beautiful botanicals and succulents, and we'd also love to pair this with getting to know our fellow green thumbs. Miami could use some community gardens, and the library is the perfect place to bring people together with the knowledge they'd need to make their garden a success. A big part of Dade's plan is to make libraries "community hubs," a communal garden is a great way to start.
Citizenship Classes, Information, and Assistance
Speaking on the positive work in his own immigrant-rich area, City Librarian for Los Angeles Public Library John Szabo said branding their branches as "the path to citizenship" was immensely helpful and rewarding. That Miami could benefit from similar programs is a no-brainer. The County hopes to reinvigorate libraries as places to strengthen our citizens and create a stronger workforce. Encouraging immigrants to get their citizenship and helping them through the daunting process is beneficial to the country, the county, and the immigrant population.
Technological Hubs for Learning and Experimentation
The history of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is kind of a tale of two cities. The town that was once vilely polluted changed its tune to become one of the greenest cities in America, and a similar story can be told of its once sad and ailing library system. Director of Chattanooga public library Corinne Hill said redesigning themselves into a hub for technological discourse and discovery has brought them the attention of the area's young entrepreneurs. Because their employees have hit the streets and built a relationship with these important leaders of tomorrow, they've created an environment where those looking for a place to meet and discuss ideas want to be.
Miami should consider a similar redesign and use this extra money to outfit its branches with better computers, 3D printers, high-powered Internet, and anything else a fledgling company might need to get their ideas out of their heads and in motion.
It may sound silly, but all that talk about luring in students and young entrepreneurs led one guest to comment that it sounded like a coffee shop. FIU Provost Dr. Kennedy G Furton was quick to point out that FIU's libraries have Starbucks inside. He also mentioned how important it was to student development and performance to have a place where they can feel a sense of "belonging." Just putting in a café counter with light snacks and small tables can keep people in the library for longer periods of time, and the hip atmosphere would definitely appeal to a younger audience. It also gives the library a space where strangers can meet and become possible learning and business partners. Besides, Miami is kind of like a great coffee capitol. We should be on this already!
Publicly-Run Class Offerings, Etc.
If the whole idea is to get the community involved, you've got to let community members take the lead. Hall from Chattanooga mentioned how successful her libraries have been offering classes on textiles or allowing patrons to tell curate the collections rather than picky librarians. And what about throwing more literary-themed parties and gatherings in that great open space at the main branch? Just as it's important for officials to let loose the reins of control on the whole, it's important that each branch stay flexible to differentiate itself dependent on the needs of their district served. We kept hearing things about how the people will tell you what they need, and if that's true, you all should be hitting your public library and let your voices be heard. These are some of our ideas, but what are yours?
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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