A Look Back
Public libraries in Miami have a long, rich history—a history that traces back to the late 19th century. The Library System as we know it today began with the Lemon City Reading Room in 1894 followed soon after with the Cocoanut Grove Reading Room in 1895. The earliest libraries in Miami were founded through the efforts of local women’s clubs resulting in the construction of the Coconut Grove Library in 1901 and the purchase of a storefront in 1902 that became the Lemon City Library. The first bookmobile for traveling library service began in January of 1928 and Miami residents were so proud of the bookmobile they put it in the Orange Bowl parade (then known as the Palm Fete).
In 1942, these libraries were brought together to form the City of Miami Public Library System. In 1971, city and county libraries joined forces and formed the Miami‑Dade Public Library System. Almost immediately, the new library system experienced an unprecedented boost in its growth. This expansion was a result of the 1972 Decade of Progress Bond Program—a $553 million initiative that made possible many important local projects including the construction of 13 new libraries. Through the Decade of Progress Bond Program, regional libraries were constructed in South Dade, West Dade and North Dade, as well as branches in Northeast, Model City, Kendall, Miami Lakes, South Miami, Homestead, Coral Reef and Key Biscayne. Finally in 1985, at the newly constructed Cultural Plaza in downtown Miami, a new Main Library opened.
This period of growth was followed in 1990 with the opening of two additional libraries in the areas of North Central and West Kendall. In 1992, the world’s first library on an elevated transit system opened at the Metrorail’s Civic Center station. Over the next eight years, no further expansion of the system was funded and no new libraries opened. It wasn’t until the fall of 2001, when the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners voted to increase the library system’s budget which provided funding for capital improvement initiatives—making way for the opening of 18 new libraries by the year 2011.
When the Board of County Commissioners approved the library system’s Capital Plan in 2001, it was the first time in nearly a decade that the department had resources to open new libraries. The plan called for the immediate opening of a new wave of smaller libraries and the subsequent construction of 10 new libraries. These smaller libraries were fashioned after a homework center in the City of Doral and became the model for storefront libraries that were located in shopping centers throughout the County. In rapid succession, the library system successfully opened these storefront libraries in Country Walk, Hialeah Gardens, Tamiami, Naranja, Lakes of the Meadow, Concord, California Club, Doral, Palm Springs North, Opa‑locka, and Sunset.
Since 2001, eight newly‑constructed libraries have opened. These include Arcola Lakes, Golden Glades, International Mall, Kendale Lakes, Naranja, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and Virrick Park. In addition, four branches have been relocated to larger facilities and major renovations have taken place at six branches.
In the more than 100 years of serving the community, the library system has experienced tremendous change and growth and all the while remaining committed to being “the compelling community destination, by providing a five‑star customer service experience.”