A bird’s eye view of Miami literacy

By | July 15th, 2011 | 9 Comments

Newly elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is proposing closing 13 of the county’s 49 libraries in an effort to close a $400 million budget gap, the Herald reports. I understand the imperative to get Miami’s fiscal house in order, but shuttering 26 percent of libraries is the wrong way to do it, especially with counter-structures like casinos threatening to proliferate locally. This issue is begging for a soap-box stander, but I’m going to tackle it sans histrionics. The screenshots below show the library locations of several big cities. They are all zoomed to the same degree (10x). Draw your own conclusion as to whether Miami can afford to close more than a quarter of its public libraries if it still wants to call itself a world-class (or even a country-class) city.


Map of Chicago Public Libraries

Population: 2.9 million
Libraries: 79
One library for every 36,708 people

New York City

Map of NYC Public Libraries

Population: 8.2 million
Libraries: 92
One library for every 89,130 people

Los Angeles

A map of Los Angeles Public Libraries

Population: 3.8 million
Libraries: 72
One library for every 52,777 people


A map of Miami-Dade County Public Libraries

Population: 2.5 million
Libraries: soon to be 36 (I erased 13 currently open libraries at random — these are NOT necessarily the branches slated for closure)
One library for every 69,444 people


To this amateur statistician’s eye, Miami’s library system doesn’t look very good by comparison to other big cities’. As for NYC’s lower library-per-x-amount-of-people stat, I think the screenshot shows that those 92 libraries are squeezed into a pretty tight space, making them easier to access than Miami’s far flung branches.

So, proud peer perusers of Miami’s precious public libraries, what say you about Gimenez’s proposal?

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9 Comments on “A bird’s eye view of Miami literacy”

  1. 1 rebeca said at 10:14 am on July 15th, 2011:

    its fucking bullshit. the only culture miami has is superficial.

  2. 2 Mara said at 11:09 am on July 15th, 2011:

    A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
    — James MADISON

    There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
    — Andrew CARNEGIE

    So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
    — Kurt VONNEGUT [In These Times, 8/6/2004]

  3. 3 Proud Tea Party Member said at 12:59 pm on July 15th, 2011:

    What’s important is that my taxes aren’t going up. Libraries are waste and fat that should be trimmed at every chance. Hey, and who needs libraries when we have Barnes and Nobles? Did I mention my taxes aren’t going up?

  4. 4 swampthing said at 12:34 am on July 16th, 2011:

    Proud… as in proud to be stupid? What’s next, an old fashioned book burning courtesy of our local T party of troglodytes. BTW, heard from reliable source that Gimenez is an art hater.

  5. 5 Dave said at 8:41 am on July 16th, 2011:

    To the T (T is for Tory, for you support the rights of the aristocrats over national freedom, you and yours are confused–greed, selfishness, and shared sacrifice for the common good, i.e. national interest is by definition UNPATRIOTIC–where would we be if young men and women of the militarty said, the country’s is being attacked? well, I’m not being attacked).

    During hard economic times, if you study the statistics, if you ever were a visitor to the library, you would understand they are used more than ever. Fat? clean out the fat between your ears and get some exercise. I would never have been a soldier and defended such lazy, pathetic, UN-AMERICAN disgusting pukes as you.

  6. 6 nirvous said at 12:11 pm on July 16th, 2011:

    Are taxpayer funds really required? Couldn’t/wouldn’t benefactors/foundations provide funds for libraries?
    (Think of a modern day Andrew Carnegie. Somebody should hit BillG or Zuck up for some library funds.)

    Any price innovation possible?
    I’d pay a higher subscription rate for a library card for employed adults so library access could be free for kids/students.

    And then there is technology…with titles available in electronic format on readers like Kindle, iPad, Sony reader, etc, why not reduce the size/scope/approach
    of public libraries in wealthier areas where device ownership is more prevalent?

    Like it or not, the reality is that the funds aren’t there. But think of it this way: Nothing focuses the mind better than constraints.

    We’ve got no shortage of creativity, right Miami?

  7. 7 Julian said at 6:48 pm on July 17th, 2011:

    Compare Miami to DC, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, and San Diego. Closing libraries sucks, but I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. The people that use libraries will continue to use them.

  8. 8 Zyon said at 1:07 pm on July 19th, 2011:

    People call the Mayor, write, ask him to keep our Libraries open and to do by us and our children right. We voted for him when he needed our votes, is his turn to show us we did not make a mistake.

  9. 9 Neil de la Flor said at 3:01 pm on July 19th, 2013:

    There should be more libraries, not less, in the major metropolitan cities mentioned above. Since the 1950’s over 95% of public schools have been closed and consolidated into these mega schools we have now that are overcrowded and act more like temporary jails than learning institutions. Citing maps and ratios of how libraries to total population oversimplifies the real question: what is the qualitative impact of public libraries on the greater community? This is a more important question to answer. Also, keep in mind, NYC has a much more diverse and rich cultural backbone that Miami lacks, which includes major museums, universities and other cultural institutions that are free or are inexpensive for local residents. Less libraries simply means less libraries.

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