The Future of Libraries Without Librarians

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Our County Mayor cannot get a quick fix on how to insert a cheap replacement for their neighborhood library. The Librarian affects so many people across the spectrum of Miami-Dade’s demographics that it’s impossible to match the scope.

Replace a library with a “homework” center.  Use the same equipment and software and rid yourself of the Librarian. RESULTS: You alienate seniors, adults, babies, toddlers, book discussion groups, meditation groups, creative writing groups, poetry groups, arts and crafts people, open mic night people…  and essentially EVERYONE who used the facility to meet and interact and create.

Replace a library with a “technology” center.  Use the same equipment and software, and rid yourself of the Librarian.  RESULTS: You alienate seniors, adults, babies, toddlers, book discussion groups, meditation groups, creative writing groups, poetry groups, arts and crafts people, open mic night people…  and essentially EVERYONE who used the facility to meet and interact and create.

It’s hard to put your finger on what librarians do for us.  We handle a constituency that spans newborns who get to hear their first book sung to them to the seniors who are too frail to come into the library and so we mail books to them.  The millions of people in between get a ton of shared access to everything else from books, databases, programs, and a comfortable spot to chill. The librarians organize it and then cater to your requests. We’re a concierge without the hotel.

A few repeated sentences are the Mayor’s crutch.  He’s upping the summer suspense by slowly dribbling out the true number of libraries versus homework centers versus closures. He repeatedly calls them all just “a moving target.”

So our sterotype of being bookish isn’t helping.  Everyone forgets the dangerous stuff.   When something bad happens in the library, when the outside world impacts the secure feeling, the librarian is looked to as the authority figure.

The concept of homework / technology centers relies on what the Mayor calls a “cadre of volunteers” directed by newly hired part-timers.  So far the ten centers will have volunteers dealing with issues like these that happened from 8/2011 – 8/2013:

  1. Country Walk Librarians, running a storefront library, handled 2 injuries and 1 disturbance.
  2. Virrick Park Librarians, in Coconut Grove, handled 15 disturbances, 3 vandalisms, and a theft with 6 of the incidents serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and evictions.
  3. Civic Center Library staff, the tiny kiosk on a Metrorail station, had only 1 disturbance.
  4. North Shore Librarians were busy!  They handled 31 disturbances, 8 accident/injuries, 2 thefts with 8 incidents serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and evictions.
  5. Shenandoah Librarians handled 16 disturbances, 3 occasions of criminal activity, 5 accidents/injuries, and 2 thefts. Five of the incidents were serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and evictions.
  6. Lemon City Librarians handled 6 disturbances, 2 occasions of criminal activity and 2 thefts, with only 1 incident serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and an eviction.
  7. Little River Librarians handled 30 disturbances, 4 accidents/injuries, 4 thefts, 2 vandalism episodes, with 6 incidents serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and evictions.
  8. Opa Locka Librarians handled 1 disturbance.
  9. Lakes of the Meadow Librarians handled 1 theft, 1 disturbance, and 1 accident/injury
  10. Culmer Overtown Librarians handled 12 disturbances, 1 alarm, 3 occasions of criminal activity, 1 accident/injury, 1 fire, and 1 unattended child. Ten of the incidents were serious enough to warrant emergency personnel and evictions.

Volunteers aren’t tied to the job. Volunteers fit altruism into their lifestyle. Will they defend the center and its children if they feel threatened, harassed, have to deal with mental illness, are assaulted, deal with repeat offenders, masturbators, and sexual harassment?

So, you may ask, if this has been happening in the libraries, why doesn’t it make the news?  It’s because a professional librarian handled each crisis, and handled it well.

“This process is a moving target,” says the Mayor.  Actually, the cadre of volunteers, with their hearts of gold and lack of supervision, will be the moving target.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED!

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.

Respectfully yours,

Library Employee #251

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