21st Century Skills:
The Miami-Dade County Public Library System embodies the ethic of service to community. It is viewed first and foremost as a community resource – a place where people can get what they need in a trusted setting with experienced, hands-on assistance.
"When we hire, we ask the candidate: Why do you want to work in the library? If they say: Because I really love books – that’s the wrong answer. This job is about people!"
— Raymond Santiago, Director, Miami-Dade County Public Library System
Miami-Dade County has a diverse population in more than 30 separate towns with almost indistinguishable boundaries between them, resulting in an absence of natural city centers. The public library system has addressed this challenge by becoming a leader in the community through its transformative vision of the library as a place where people can congregate.
The public library system’s leadership vision has been put into practice by its 5-Star Customer Service Initiative. The initiative’s vision: "The library will be a compelling community destination by providing a Five-Star Customer Experience."
The work of each library is framed around the customer experience; each institution plays an active role in the town by aggregating community information, partnering with local community organizations, and providing 24/7 access to resources whenever possible.
For example, the state of Florida has an extensive e-government portal with numerous social and public services available online. However, a large percentage of the population in Miami-Dade County lacks basic computer skills. The Miami-Dade Public Library System responded to this community need by creating and developing technology literacy programs for adults, many of whom are seniors. A vibrant technology literacy program now teaches over 200 adults every month. It is common for library staff and volunteers to witness a grandparent connecting with a distant grandchild through e-mail or Facebook for the very first time. Senior citizens also learn communication and civic awareness skills in the Seniors Telling Stories program, which connects them to college professors who are trained to teach them how to craft and share their personal stories. The seniors then debut their stories as part of the Art of Storytelling festival at their local libraries and community centers.
Miami-Dade Public Library is equally committed to addressing issues relating to equal access. The Service for the Homebound program provides books-by-mail to individuals of all ages who are unable to visit the library in person due to chronic illness, physical disability, and/or frailties of age. This group of people is able to access basic reading services to advance and learn basic literacy, and continue to stay connected to their community through the libraries’ services.
Miami-Dade Public Library leaders hold themselves accountable to the 5-Star Initiative through customer surveys. Survey results are reported quarterly to ensure each library is focusing on delivering the best possible service, in the best possible environment, to each customer.
The vision of customer service in the 5-Star Initiative and the partnerships with community organizations reflect a commitment toward servicing the needs of the local Miami-Dade County community, over and above collecting and checking out books. The 5-Star Initiative is truly transformational in that the library system acts as the community "center" the area really needs.