Library Time

A month-long campaign helped reverse most of SF Public Library's May 16, 2013 semi-secret plan to eliminate the final 8-9 pm evening hour at all of the 18 branches that currently have open evenings until 9 pm.  System-wide, forty-two evening sessions per week would have been cut short, negatively affecting working people, students, and others who need to use the library in the evening. 

But the struggle to get the library to listen to what patrons consistently say they want more of – evenings and weekends – is far from over, the library still plans to spend $1 million on an hours expansion plan that would not lengthen a single 9 pm evening, would not add a single 9 pm evening to any location, and unfortunately would once again not add, for the general public, a single minute to a skimpy Main Library schedule that provides open hours only three nights per week, and only until 8 pm. 

And instead of providing increased choices to patrons for evenings to visit a library, the plan eliminates all Monday evenings after 6 pm by shifting currently-open evenings to another day of the week. That change leaves only three nights per week that SFPL will have branches open until 9 pm. At present, a SFPL patron can find a branch library somewhere in the city open until 9 pm four times per week.

The library is using $1 million of an $8.5 million increase in its budget to add 36 hours per week to the branches, but mostly during the daytime, with nothing at the Main Library extended for the general public. Three internal departments (SF History and Book Arts/Special Collections, Deaf Services, and Library for the Blind & Print Disabled), now open fewer than the Main's 60 hours, would receive additional hours so as to be open the same hours as the Main. 

This revised open hours plan would still eliminate both of Marina Branch's evening 8-9 pm hours, completely eliminate one of two 6-9 pm evenings at Noe Valley Branch, giving it only one evening open until 9 pm, and eliminate popular Saturday mornings at Park Branch. 

Our library is wealthy, thanks to voter measures Prop. E (1994) and Prop. D (2007) that guarantee its ample income.  It spends far more per capita than 85 of 86 other American libraries serving comparably-sized populations.  SFPL's budget will reach $100 million in the next fiscal year.  We should have nothing but the best – but don't. 

Peter Warfield is Esecutive Director of Library Users Association