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Miami-Dade Public Libraries: Rare, Archival Images Show More Prosperous Years (PHOTOS)

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Miami-Dade Public Library System
Miami-Dade Public Library System

Just days away from the final vote on whether 49 Miami-Dade public libraries will be partially shuttered, just under half of library staff laid off, and its bookmobiles -- a Miami tradition since 1938 -- shut down, never-before-seen images from the system's prosperous mid-century years have been released.

Miami artist Barron Sherer spent the past several weeks digitalizing and preserving a special collection of nearly 200 Kodachrome slides from the library's archives.

The rare, color-saturated images, originally snapped for reasons of posterity from 1959 to 1962, show a thriving (and well-funded) library system.

"The library is not just an assembly of books and a collection of special objects preserving local culture," Raymond Santiago, Director of the Miami-Dade Public Library System, said of the rare images. "It has always been a civic place and will increasingly become a meeting place for creativity where meaningful collaborations emerge, great ideas are formulated and where important things happen."

The images are a stark contrast to the direction the county may take if commissioners approve Mayor Carlos Gimenez's cuts at a September 10 meeting.

To avoid massive lay-offs and over a dozen library branches' drastic cut in hours, two commissioners must vote to raise the library's millage to .2993, according to the campaign Save The Miami-Dade Public Libraries, in order to close the current $13 million gap in funding.

Click below to see images of better days for Miami's public libraries, including the original main library located in Bayfront Park and a branch which Andrew Carnegie's wife helped found:

(Captions provided by the MDPLS's Florida Collection Director)
  • 1
    Shenandoah Branch Library, Old Browsing Room, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    The 50-year old facility reopened in December 2010 after undergoing a $1.5M renovation that kept the essence of the original building.
  • 2
    Technical Processing, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
  • 3
    Old Main Library
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    A main library building had been proposed for Bayfront Park in downtown Miami as early as 1938. Miamians began using their new library in Bayfront Park on July 2, 1951, even before its formal dedication on July 27 of that year. It was the first public building in Miami with air conditioning.The building, commonly known as the old Main Library was located on Bayfront Park at 1 Biscayne Blvd.
  • 4
    Music Listening Station, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
  • 5
    Lemon City Library, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    The Lemon City Library is one of the oldest public libraries in South Florida. In 1894, a reading room was established at a house in Lemon City. In 1905 they built this library building at 412 NE 61st Street. In 1963, the library was moved to a larger, 6,393 square foot building, which was able to accommodate an increasing collection of books and materials.
  • 6
    Lemon City Branch
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    A public library in Lemon City was started in 1902 when ladies organized the Lemon City Library Association with dues of ten cents that met in one lady's home. In 1905 they built a library building at 412 NE 61st Street. In 1963, the library was moved to a larger, 6,393 square foot building at 430 NE 61st Street. The Lemon City Branch Library, once referred to as the "cradle of civilization" for Southeast Florida, continues to flourish in its present location and currently serves a growing Haitian population.
  • 7
    Metropolitan Dade Traveling Library, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    The first bookmobile in Miami-Dade ran in 1938. Miami-Dade Public Library System currently has two bookmobiles serving Miami-Dade County residents at public parks, community centers and retirement facilities.
  • 8
    Coconut Grove Branch Library
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    The Miami-Dade Public Library System traces its origin to the late nineteenth century. A reading room was founded in Cocoanut Grove (original spelling) on June 15, 1895 by the ladies of the Pine Needles Club. Mrs. Andrew Carnegie helped with the beginning of the library with the contribution of bundles of books. In 1900 the Cocoanut Grove Library Association was incorporated and in 1901 the county's first library building was built in Cocoanut Grove. The current library replaced the original and was built in 1963. It includes a wing built as a replica of the original 1901 structure.
  • 9
    MDPLS, Periodicals
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
  • 10
    Old Main Library, Florida History Desk, 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
    The Florida Department is currently housed at the Main Library at the Miami-Dade Cultural Center. The department has information on the Sunshine State, with special emphasis on the South Florida region. In addition to rare books and documents, the Florida Department houses the Gleason Waite Romer collection of 17,500 photographic negatives and prints recording Miami's history from pioneer days through 1950.
  • 11
    MDPLS, June 1961
    Miami-Dade Public Library System
  • 12
    MDPLS
    Miami-Dade Public Library System

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