After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for indoor service, city officials announced on Monday 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 disaster service workers to help with public virus response.
With COVID-19 restrictions easing, last month The City reopened the Main Library, the Chinatown-Him Mark Lai Library and the Mission Bay Library, and launched the “Browse and Bounce” program, which allows patrons to browse through library collections, access free public computers and return or check out materials during 60-minute sessions.
As of Monday, the Ortega Library, the Richmond-Sen. Milton Marks Jr. Library and the Visitacion Valley Library have reopened for indoor service. On Tuesday, the Excelsior Branch was set to reopen its doors.
Sometime next month, The City will reopen doors at the Bernal Heights, Bayview, Eureka Valley, Oceanview, Glen Park and Western Addition branches.
According to city officials, all libraries cannot be opened just yet, as a quarter of all library staff continues to work as contract tracers, case investigators, outreach workers, copywriters and translators for COVID-19 response.
“Our public library stepped up in more ways than one to help this city during this unprecedented time of need, but now it’s time to start getting back to regular business,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but the fact that we are bringing more neighborhood libraries online for service is a great sign of progress as we continue down the path of recovery.”
The City is anticipating reopening all libraries for indoor service in the fall, before the school year begins.
“We are doing the best with the personnel we have to fully reopen all of our neighborhood libraries as expeditiously as possible,” City Librarian Michael Lambert said. “In the meantime, we can’t wait to welcome our beloved patrons back through our doors for Browse and Bounce and provide access to collections at our SFPL To-Go locations.”
A second program — SFPL To-Go program — which provides front-door pickup service at several branches and bookmobile locations also launched last month. The program soon will expand to include a total of 18 libraries and four bookmobile locations. Next month, the program will expand to include three more branches.
For now, capacity at libraries with indoor service will be limited and patrons will be required to practice social distancing and wear masks.