Patrons and staff of the North Miami Beach Library have been in fear of losing their facility after a charter school, SLAM Academy, opened just a few yards away.
Library manager Edenia Hernandez said there have been various proposals to shrink the library space to expand the school’s property.
Hernandez was informed the middle school may take the 23,000-square-foot library for its own use and have a 5,000-square-foot e-library — mostly providing computers that allow access to online books, with some space for children’s books — built in the front parking lot
Edward Gorriz, the principal of SLAM Academy, said he had seen such a floor plan before but that it never moved forward.
There have been other plans presented that involved the library, such as using half of it for the school. This plan also failed to move forward because librarians disagreed with the idea.
He insisted that any plans to expand SLAM will need to be agreed upon by all affected parties.
“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Gorriz. “I want to work with the library, not against them.”
Both the library and school share the same goal of wanting to help the community, he said.
“It’s not about the library, it’s not about the school, it’s about the community,” said Gorriz.
Limiting the amount of library space would not comply with the public library standards of the Florida Library Association, which defines that the square footage of a library depends on the population of a city.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of North Miami Beach in 2018 was 45,887, although it is believed to have grown this year.
“Our [the city’s] estimate, is about…over like 50,000,” said North Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Joseph.
Due to the population increasing, Hernandez said the library should only be getting bigger.
The staff of the library explained that if the library gets smaller for any reason, they would not be able to provide as many services as they currently do.
As of today, the library holds a wide range of free educational activities, including tech support workshops, English-language classes, citizenship courses, physical fitness classes and more.
“We wouldn’t be able to hold those classes because we wouldn’t have the space to do that,” Hernandez said.
Aside from losing such services, the library would also need to cut down on staff.
“Limiting the space would be limiting resources,” said Joseph.
This would affect the way the library educates and assists its patrons.
“Somebody may point you to a computer… but if there is not enough staff who are savvy to both the computers… and …books…you still can’t get everything online,” said Susan Sandness, the former director of the North Miami Beach Library and president of NMB Library Friends.
She emphasized that such proposed adjustments would impact the entire community.
“People make it their own home … they come here so regularly that they recognize each other and chat,” said Sandness.
Although Gorriz had denied there are plans that include “touching the library,” the library staff and patrons are still skeptical of the whole idea.
The librarians say they are constantly hearing of new plans for the school to reconfigure its layout to accommodate its students.
At the end of the month, SLAM Academy will meet with an architect to look at the framework of a new plan to expand the school.
North Miami Beach library users offer opinions on plans being considered to make the library smaller. Interviewed by Francesca Romana Bozza Aureli. Edited By Daniela Benarroch.