Bond Issues - 1974 and 1999
Libraries are more than just buildings and books - they are the lifeblood of the community, a place to read and wonder, learn and think. Broward County Library is all of that and more - it is the people of Broward County. Without them, the believers and the dreamers, Broward County Library may never have evolved into what it is today, one of the nation's most highly respected libraries, an award-winning institution that was named 1996-1997 "Library of the Year" by Library Journal.
When Broward County Library was first chartered in 1974, the entire system consisted of four libraries; however, the rapid growth of Broward County's population necessitated growth of many of county's infrastructure, libraries included. While many of the cities throughout Broward County had small libraries of their own, it wasn't until 1974 that a decision was made to open a full-service countywide library system. After Broward County Library was chartered, city libraries were invited to join the county system.
As the system grew, the former city libraries increased their collections and access to reference materials, but still something was lacking. Broward County was growing, but there was no central library for reference and research. In the mid-1970s, Broward was a smaller place, with no university library, and educational and academic libraries were lacking the reference materials needed to meet the needs of people.
Another concern for those looking to expand Broward County Library was finances; at the time, all library buildings, public service and administration, were housed in rented facilities. Library leaders wisely recognized that the price of land in South Florida wasn't going down, and if they continued to put off buying land and building their own structures, the prices would only get higher and higher, making it more difficult in the future to get the necessary libraries built and opened. (As a reference, building costs for a "central" - now Main Library - were estimated at $55 per square foot.)
A small - but strong and vocal - group of library supporters organized to lobby extensively for more funding to support existing libraries as well as build new ones. Their plan was to construct one central reference/research library, three regional libraries (South, West, and East) and the renovation or construction of Hallandale, Tamarac, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Imperial Point, Riverland, Cooper City and Lauderdale Lakes/Lauderhill Branch Library.
"It will not give us 'the ultimate library system' by any means," said then-Library Director Cecil E. Beach. "If we accomplish this, it merely means that we will have the facilities we should have to serve the people who live here."
A plan was formed and a campaign started to get a bond issue passed to fund the much-need facilities at an estimated cost of $31,852,000. The supporters of the bond issue made it clear that libraries weren't a luxury: In September of 1978, the voters of Broward County approved the passage of a Bond Issue that would infuse Broward County Library with the funds necessary to develop and maintain a full-service library system. $32 million was earmarked for 12 new and expanded libraries; when this figure was broken down, it came to only $1.59 per person per year - less than the cost of one paperback book. A five-year plan was adopted in order to best utilize available funds, with special attention paid to budgeting for proper staffing, books, and operational costs.
And so Broward County Library grew.
Fast forward two decades: It's now 1998 and the growth of Broward County, in terms of both development and population, is tremendous. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, many former Miami-Dade residents flocked north, settling everywhere from Pembroke Pines to Coral Springs. Communities sprawled westward - communities with children and schools as well as senior citizens and retirement villages. In a list of the 35 most populous cities in Florida, 11 are located in Broward County.
Broward County Library now included 35 branches, 659 staff members, 2.3 million books and a budget that was now stretched to the limit as the library struggled to service this burgeoning population.
The campaign was on. The fall of 1998 saw community leaders, library staff and library advocates joining together to rally for the successful passage of the library Bond Issue, Better Libraries for a Better Broward.
The Bond Issue was created to provide $139.9 million in financing to renovate existing libraries and build new ones. In addition to construction funding, the Bond Issue would also bring more than 1 million new books and books-on-tape for all Broward County Library, more state-of-the-art computer workstations, and more programming for children. The initial plan called for nine new libraries and five expanded ones for a total of 345,000 additional square feet of library.
And on March 9, 1999, the voters of Broward County overwhelmingly passed the Bond Issue in a three-to-one victory, paving the way for a new era of growth and development for Broward County Library. Now plans were on the book for the 11 new or replacement libraries throughout Broward County, all of which were to be built or redeveloped within a five-year time span.
First on the list: a blueprint that would successfully outline the steps and measures necessary to ensure that the growth of the library would be instituted smoothly and easily. A master program schedule was created, providing for all Library Bond projects to be completed within five years from the March 9, 1999 date that voters approved of the Library Bond Referendum.
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