San Francisco’s Main Public Library will reopen with limited indoor service on May 3, more than a year after The City closed down its libraries to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor London Breed announced the reopening date Tuesday. The San Francisco Examiner previously reported the San Francisco Library was planning to open this spring, but it had yet to pick a date.
“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,” Breed said in a statement.
The Main Library indoor service will be limited initially to the first floor. The Chinatown Branch Library and the Mission Bay Branch Library will reopen the week of May 17.
Supervisor Matt Haney celebrated the news.
“The libraries are so important to all of our residents,” he wrote on Twitter. “The Main Library provides critical access to my constituents who otherwise lack access to technology. Mission Bay Branch is a vibrant community resource especially for families.”
The limited indoor service, called “Browse and Bounce,” will allow patrons to browse library books on the shelves as well a music and movies. Their visits must be limited to one hour. There will be self-check out machines for use.
Patrons can use computers for a limited time of 50 minutes as well as print out materials. Staff will be on hand to answer questions. People can get help to obtain library cards.
The 28 library locations were shutdown in March 2020 and hundreds of library personnel were redeployed to help The City respond to the pandemic.
In the fall, locations began offer curbside pickup and drop off services known as SFPL To-G0. This service is currently operating at 15 locations, including the Main Library, and will continue alongside the limited indoor service.
The Main Library will be open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5:30 p.m.
The Chinatown Branch Library will reopen for indoor service on May 17 and operate Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
The Mission Bay Branch Library will reopen on May 18 and operate Tuesday though Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
The library branches will likely see a fair amount of activity according to a phone and email survey of 587 residents conducted by FM3 on behalf of the nonprofit Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Seventy-five percent said they “would feel safe coming to the library once they are reopened” and 60 percent of those making less than $100,000 “are looking for expanded access to free WIFI connection.”
Ninety-five percent of those surveyed considered libraries an essential service like parks, hospitals and schools.
City Librarian Michael Lambert said Visitacion Valley, Richmond, and Ortega branch libraries will open on June 21 and the Excelsior Branch Library on June 22 with more to follow. He said all branches would be open by the fall.
“I am beyond thankful that we’re finally able to reopen our libraries for in person services,” Lambert said. “It’s been a long hard 13 months.”