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Report finds strong demand for more hours at SF libraries

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A recent city report found strong demand for more library hours. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s 28 library locations offer patrons 1,460 open hours weekly, 21 percent more than city law and voters require — but a new study shows there is demand for even more.

A report recently completed for the San Francisco Public Library by the City Controller’s Office recommends that the library should consider adding hours to “reduce gaps in system-wide coverage and alleviate high demand on some days and times at specific libraries.”

The report, a voter-mandated library hour study that must be completed every five years, recommends adding hours on Sundays and Fridays.

“Visitor traffic is consistently high from opening to closing at most libraries on these days, likely due to a combination of high demand and libraries being open fewer hours in the day, and extending opening and closing times on these days would likely benefit the largest number of patrons,” the report said.

The report also recommends extending opening and closing times on other days “at locations demonstrating latent demand.”

“Usage is consistently high at the existing 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. closing hours, and many libraries are busy in the opening hour,” the report said.

Deric Licko, the City Controller’s project analyst, cited one example when presenting the report to the Library Commission in early February.

“On Mondays at 1 p.m., when the [Mission] branch doesn’t open until 1 p.m., is one of the Mission Branch’s busiest times,” Licko said. “Similarly, Mondays at 5 p.m., Mission branch is much busier than Tuesdays at 5 p.m. when it’s open until 9 p.m., which suggests to us that a lot of patrons are trying to get to the Mission library before it closes at 6 p.m. [on Mondays].”

The Library did add 85 open hours in June 2017 to ensure all locations were open seven days a week. At the time, 18 branches were open seven days a week but nine were not. The decision came before the 5-year analysis released earlier this year.

“The Main Library and most of the busiest branches received no additional open hours in June 2017, and the Library should consider re-allocating some open hours to these libraries to alleviate high demand and potentially expand the coverage footprint,” the report said.

In response to the report, Library Commissioner and head Librarian Luis Herrera said there were budget constraints on adding more hours, but the library would likely re-examine the hours offered at a later date. The library’s current budget of $137.85 million is proposed to grow to $163.64 million next fiscal year.

The report also suggests piloting longer hours to see how they impact usage.

Of the patrons surveyed as part of a study, 59 percent said they would use additional hours if provided.

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