Miami-Dade County's book lovers have been up in arms ever since Mayor Gimenez proposed the closure of 22 libraries in order to save taxpayer money during a budget meeting back in July. Today, the number of libraries marked for closure has been reduced to 13, according to the Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries Facebook group.
With so many libraries on the chopping block, and others, like the main branch downtown, scheduled to be downsized, many feared that the library system may also be seeking to sell or even destroy part of their archives. In June, shortly before the mayor announced his library closure plans, we profiled the Moving Image Archive, a collection of hundreds of film reels that's housed inside a section of the main branch building that is scheduled for closure, the Miami Herald reports. We reached out to Miami-Dade Public Library System Director Raymond Santiago, who assured us that the film archives are here to stay.
Speaking via phone late Tuesday afternoon, he addressed the rumors. "Nothing is going to be sold off or destroyed," he said. "Nobody's been directed to do that. That's totally inaccurate information that's being spread out there. None of our special collections are being sold off, sold at auction, destroyed, thrown in the garbage. That's just totally inaccurate."
He poo-poos the notion that that would ever be an option, saying it goes against the nature what his staff provides for the county. "We're all librarians," he said. "We're all very cognizant of the value of our special collections. For anybody to think that we would get rid of these things just doesn't make sense whatsoever. They're what a library is supposed to do. It's part of our basic core function."
Santiago confirmed that the third floor administrative offices of the Main Library located in Downtown Miami are being closed. This floor happens to also hold the library system's vast film collection, which once held the largest rotating film collection in the country in the '60s and '70s.
"The films will be moved to another part of the library," noted Santiago. "We're in the middle of assessing all of our spaces, but they will be kept within the library system."
As the October deadline looms for the county's budget, threats to cuts in the library system's budget as well as the county's fire rescue department remain giant concerns to many citizens, as well as county employees who could lose jobs. Santiago says his department is working hard to stave off the bleeding where it can without compromising its collection. "It's certainly a challenge to us," he said, "but our goal is to try to minimize the negative effects with regards to all of our facilities, and certainly we are very cognizant of the value."
Meanwhile, Vanessa Reyes-Herridge, a now former admin for Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries Facebook group, took responsibility in a post Monday on the group's page for sharing unchecked information that insinuated elements of the library system's collection would be trashed. She blamed a "mix up with our Facebook site contributors relaying the wrong message." She ended her post noting, "I want to let everyone know that I was not responsible for this post; and to prevent any affiliation with any other posts that are not valid, I have chosen to resign from being a site admin for this campaign."
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Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.