Some — but far from all — of San Francisco's public libraries will start reopening for in-person reading in May.
The San Francisco Main Library's first floor will reopen May 3, and the Chinatown/Him Mark Lai and Mission Bay branches will reopen the week of May 17, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.
But when San Franciscans return to libraries in person, it won't be for long stretches. The San Francisco Public Library has developed what it calls its "Browse and Bounce" program for folks to browse books with an expectation of brevity.
No chairs will be available for sitting to read or to study, Breed's office said. No studying or meeting in library branch meeting rooms will be allowed.
Computers will be available for 50-minute stretches, however, with printers and photocopiers also available. Library staff will also be available to answer questions.
“We’ve missed each and every one of our library patrons, just as much as they’ve missed us and we are so proud to start welcoming them back inside,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert in a statement.
Other branches will reopen "as staffing permits," Breed's office said.
So where are the staff now? Many are helping to fill up grocery bags instead of book bags.
Since March of last year, hundreds of librarians and other library staff have elected to work with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank as city "disaster service workers," a program that reassigns city staffers when needed in emergencies. They’ve also volunteered at shelter-in-place hotels to help people who are housing insecure to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, or have been helping kids navigate their online classes at community learning hubs.
Still, others are helping patrons borrow books at 15 libraries and four bookmobile locations throughout San Francisco, which will continue to allow folks to borrow books in a San Francisco Public Library To Go front door service program.
“I want to thank all of the Library staff, along with all the other City workers, who have been serving San Francisco’s COVID response for more than a year now,” Breed said in a statement. “I know that people have really been missing the library, and though we’ve adapted to provide more to-go options and online resources, there’s nothing quite like getting to browse the shelves and pick out your next book.”
— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez