arcola lakes branch library_web.jpg(Florida International University) – Mahagonny Merritt won’t have to take the 40-minute bus ride to a downtown library now that the Arcola Lakes branch has opened just down the street from her house.

“The service that I will use most in the library are the computers because I don’t have one at home,” said Merritt, 23, who recently graduated from Everest College with a criminal investigation degree. “I came here to fill out job applications.”

The $2.3 million, 9,670-square-foot facility houses more than 16,000 books and also offers DVDs, CDs and audio books, 12 computer terminals, 30 laptops and free Wi-Fi, along with a variety of activities for different age groups.

The library, located at 8420 NW Seventh Ave., opened Oct. 3, part of a 9.25-acre complex that also will house a Miami-Dade county police station and a Head Start early childhood program sponsored by the county’s Community Action Agency. Both are set to open next year.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Commissioner Jean Monestime,  Miami-Dade Public Library System Director Raymond Santiago and Miami-Dade County School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, along with community residents, attended a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of the library.

 “Our local initiative as elected officials is to serve the community,” Gimenez said. “I am confident that this facility will do just that, serving as a wonderful asset to all the residents of this district.”

Vinora Hamilton, Miami-Dade County Library System outreach coordinator, said the county chose the Northwest Seventh Avenue site because the neighborhood lacked a library easily accessible to students at local schools.

“We looked throughout the community to see where the needs were and, because the land was available, we expanded here,” Hamilton said. “This facility will serve schools so kids — and residents — in the

surrounding neighborhoods can come and take advantage of the library.”

Merritt said she’ll do just that.

“The best part about this library is the children’s section where I can bring and educate my baby,” said the mother of 4-month-old Brylen Stitt.

The library will offer reading and literacy programs for young people and adults; computer classes; resume writing and job search workshops; and

cultural programs.

“We want to offer something that meets the diversity of the community,” Hamilton said. “We will be able to educate and reach members of the community.”

Teens can come to the facility to do homework, join a chess club or play non-violent or educational video games on Nintendo or Wii systems.

“It’s something educational and fun but something that will get the teens off the street and come to the branch to keep them busy after school,” Hamilton said.

Jimmie Floyd, a neighborhood boy who attended the grand opening, agreed with Hamilton.

“I’ll come often; it looks nice,” he said, displaying a Transformers book. “I like the books here; this is where I can read.”

The library also has a multi-purpose meeting room, an outside area for story time, easy access shelves and a children’s section with soft-edged furniture.

The staff includes  a branch manager, an assistant manager and five assistants – all paid from the county budget.

Money to build the library came from the library system’s 2001 expansion plan which provided for 10 storefront

and eight free-standing libraries.

The Arcola Lakes branch library will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays and from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Maria Concha may be contacted at


Amenities: Patrons using resources at the new Arcola Lakes branch library.