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Miami-Dade Considers The Future of Its Libraries

Miami Herald Staff

  Libraries are no longer just about the books. On Monday afternoon, that was the main point at a Knight Foundation-sponsored discussion about the future of libraries.

Libraries are exploratory labs for potential startups, spaces for interactive education and in some states, home to community gardens. These were among some of the examples at a luncheon in downtown Miami on how libraries across the nation are looking toward the future.

Miami-Dade County is looking for some inspiration at a time when funding is tight, but an overwhelming number of residents say the library system is essential.

Corrine Hill, executive director of the Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee, said what works are community-centered libraries.

“Our library is a community platform not a set of service bestowed upon the community from experts,” she said.

While the forum was Miami-Dade-centered, participants came from all across South Florida.

Skye Patrick, director of Broward County Libraries, said South Florida is prime real estate for the start-up community and that libraries should be a part of that movement.

“I think we have an opportunity to do more with the innovative and innovation and allowing people to collaborate,” she said.

In Miami-Dade, more than seven million patrons visited Miami-Dade's 49 library branches in person and five million online, according to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

He said the county is re-envisioning the function of the library in an increasingly digital age.

“We need to stop seeing libraries in isolation," he said. "We need to start thinking holistically. Seeing libraries as hubs and integral parts of neighborhood centers that bring together a wide variety of services ranging from intellectual and cultural activities, to recreational and life skill programs."