After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for indoor service, city officials on Monday announced plans to reopen more libraries throughout the summer.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city halted indoor service at all of its libraries and redirected hundreds of library staff to serve as emergency service workers, helping the city fight the virus.
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, last month, the city reopened the Main Library, Chinatown-Him Mark Lai Library, and Mission Bay Library, and launched the “Browse and Bounce” program, which allows clients to browse library collections, access free public computers, and return or collect material during 60-minute sessions.
From Monday, the Ortega library, the Richmond-Sen. The Milton Marks Jr. Library and the Visitacion Valley Library have reopened for indoor service. On Tuesday, the Excelsior branch should also reopen. Then, next month, the city will reopen branches in Bernal Heights, Bayview, Eureka Valley, Oceanview, Glen Park and Western Addition.
City officials say the city cannot reopen all of its libraries yet as a quarter of all library staff continue to work as contract plotters, case investigators, outreach workers, editors and translators for the COVID-19 response from the city.
“Our public library has mobilized in more ways than one to help this city during this time of unprecedented need, but now is the time to get back to normal operations,” the Mayor of London Breed said in a statement. “It won’t happen overnight, but the fact that we are bringing more neighborhood libraries online for service is a great sign of progress as we continue on the road to recovery.”
The city plans to reopen all of the city’s libraries for indoor service during the fall, before the start of the school year.
“We are doing our best with the staff we have to fully reopen all of our neighborhood libraries as quickly as possible,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming our beloved customers back through our doors to Browse and Bounce and providing access to the collections in our SFPL To-Go locations.”
A second program – the SFPL To-Go program – which provides front-door pickup service at several library and bookmobile branches was also launched last month at several branches.
Starting Monday, the program will expand to include a total of 18 libraries and four bookmobile locations. Next month, the program will expand to three more branches.
For now, the capacity of libraries with indoor service will be limited and patrons will have to practice social distancing and wear masks.