The Task Force gathered for the today to review months of work, survey, and presentations.
A full webcast and agenda of the meeting can be found here: http://miamidade.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2809
From every presentation, there was overwhelming support for our Libraries and its future in our community.
To bring in a National Perspective, Cathy De Rosa, the Vice President for the Americas and Global Vice President of Marketing for the the Online Computer Library Center, spoke, and called libraries a "lifeline." She went over numerous programs and initiatives throughout the nation that have been successful. Libraries have these services because "it is THE institution, the community asset that has the physical location or multiple physical locations, and at the same time it has mobile units to be able to deploy services, it has technology infrastructure, and professionals who really understand what it means to be the information and resources together..."
Infrastructure is necessary to deliver services and special programming to its community, which requires investment. When asked about how programs and libraries across the nation were funded, De Rosa stated: "Funding, grants, and philanthropy have a role, but the citizens stepping up [to fund libraries.]" Money is needed to innovate, and "...philanthropies can innovate, but communities make it sustainable."
Then, Dr. Ladner of the Behavioral Science Research Corporation reviewed the results of the community survey with the Task Force. Without a doubt, there was overwhelming support and a positive image of our public libraries--even those of nonusers of the libraries! 92% of those surveyed disagreed with the notion that public libraries are outmoded. Of that, 67% were even nonusers! On the statement that "Libraries improve my quality of life", 94% agreed, while 69% of those were still nonusers.
In presenting the results, Dr. Ladner adamantly stated: "Are people happy with their libraries? Overwhelmingly yes! The source of satisfaction: customer service!... You cannot underestimate the library as PLACE."
When asked about funding, only 45% returned the answer to increase property taxes to ensure our library services are sustained. Yet, Dr. Ladner placed that statistic in context: Only 36% of those surveyed heard about the library's funding crisis in the news, which meant that over 2/3 of people surveyed were asked for the first time about funding. This meant they more than likely had no idea how the Library was funded or that the Library was severely defunded over the years. After a question posed by Librarian Kathy Seaver, Dr. Ladner confirmed that mostly household phone users were surveyed of the 600+ responders. "The folks who are more familiar [with library services] have a tendency to raise taxes," Dr. Ladner stated.
An employee survey was also issued to Library Staff by the county's Community Information and Outreach Department; around 88% of employees were reached via email, and 80% were returned. Staff, under the shield of anonymity, made it clear that budget constraints had directly affected them, their morale, the Library's collections/holdings, their facilities and more. It was abundantly clear that Library staff had been left demoralized, felt "dispensable" in lieu of budget cuts despite their degrees and qualifications, and yet, were still eager to do more for their people. Results of the survey showed that customer service was an aspect of which they were most proud.
Finally, Richard Waters of Godfrey's Associates, Principal Consultant, offered his research from the study of our Library services, as well as neighboring municipalities. He compared the Library's lackluster budget to comparable libraries across the nation. Mr. Waters even presented future plans by municipalities outside of the Library District to expand their own libraries. If people do not support funding for libraries, as the Mayor claims, then how is it that these municipalities are able to plan for expansions for their city Library?
"Miami-Dade County is going to grow faster than the state of Florida as a whole", Mr. Waters stated, "There's going to be more library users in the future than now."
In regards to the abysmal funding for the Library's Collection, at a measly $800,000, Mr. Waters also commented that lack of funding for a Library's collection is seen about two years down the road, not immediately, which is why circulation rates have fallen recently.
Mr. Waters also commented on the Focus Groups, and though he did not mention the contention felt at the meetings, he did heavily emphasize that it was a fact that the Library's users were very well satisfied with their Library -- they were "Overwhelmingly supportive" and wanted input into what will happen in the future for their services. After all, it is "their library, they pay for it," he stated.
After the presentations, the Task Force was assigned to review the information presented and be prepared to make recommendations to the following categories: Library Service Needs, Service Model, Funding, and the Advocacy/Awareness in the community.
It was blatantly clear last summer that MDPLS needed the funding to continue to provide vital services to the community. After paying for research, surveys, consultations, and months of work -- what has been known since last summer is grounded in fact: the Library cannot continue without the restoration of funding.