More than a year ago, San Francisco shut down all 28 of its public libraries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, The City is getting ready to welcome patrons back inside to browse the shelves of books and use the computers.
The plan is to resume limited in-person services beginning with the Main Library in the Civic Center “later this spring,” according to a memo from City Librarian Michael Lambert.
No official date has been set yet. The City would first need to revise its local public health order.
Meanwhile, counties such as Los Angeles and Marin plan to begin limited in-person services next week at a number of branches. Alameda County already welcomed back patrons at some branches starting last month.
San Francisco libraries were closed down March 14, 2020 due to The City’s health order to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the fall, the library began to offer curbside pick up services, known as SFPL To Go, which are currently operating at 13 locations.
The City is now increasingly opening up more businesses and activities as cases have dropped to below 40 per day and the number of people vaccinated continues to increase.
“We are waiting for the public health order and do not have a specific opening date established yet,” Michelle Jeffers, a spokesperson for the library, told the San Francisco Examiner Monday. “We are confident that we will have libraries around the city open for in-person services by Summer.”
The Library Commission meets Thursday evening to discuss the reopening plans for when the expected health order change happens.
“As the central flagship for the SFPL system, the Main Library is slated to be the initial pilot site for resuming in-person services later this spring,” Lambert’s April 12 memo to the commission says. “The Chinatown Branch Library and Mission Bay Branch Library are also targeted to follow in subsequent weeks. Other neighborhood branches targeted for resuming in-person services this summer include Excelsior Branch Library, Visitacion Valley, Richmond, and Ortega.”
A draft reopening plan shows only the first floor atrium level of the Main Library would be open initially. Patrons, who could only remain inside for a maximum of a one hour visit, could browse the first floor collections as well as use the public computers and free printing services.
Masks and social distancing would be required. Information and borrowing desks would be staffed by library officials.
Lambert said that “SFPL To Go locations will continue to offer pick-up services throughout the summer until all library locations are reopened for in-person services.”
The SFPL To Go service at the Main Library would continue to operate from the Larkin Street entrance, while patrons heading inside would enter through the Grove Street entrance.
Both in-person and the curbside services would operate with the same days and hours, from Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, according to Jeffers.
Library personnel are gradually coming off of their duties as Disaster Service Workers, when they were deployed to help The City respond to the pandemic. There was a peak of 436 deployed at a single time in late July. Currently about one-fifth of the Library’s workforce, 149 library staff, are deployed as emergency workers until at least April 30.
Jeffers said that the library remains “working to try to recall staff from their Disaster Service Worker deployments and setting up protocols for our reopening.”
“In San Francisco, over the course of this pandemic, SFPL has had 2/3 of its staff redeployed to other city disaster service work, from contact tracing to vaccine and testing site greeters, to drivers, translators, outreach and graphic design staff at Covid Command Center,” Jeffers said. “We’re just as excited as our SF community to reopen our libraries as quickly and safely as possible.”