Mission Branch Public Library
Mission Branch Public Library. Photo by Charlotte Silver

Sitting beneath the high concrete ceiling in the historic Carnegie reading room at Mission Branch Public Library, about 30 residents of the neighborhood on Wednesday imagined what could make their beloved home-away-from-home a little bit better.

A projection screen for movie night. More tables with computers and outlets. A recreational room for older people. And more bathrooms. Definitely more bathrooms. Most in attendance had lived in the Mission for more than 30 years, and all had a stake in the neighborhood library.

The San Francisco Library Commission has requested $19.8 million to restore the landmark building to better fit the needs of the 21st century. On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors will vote on how much funding the library will get. If all goes to plan, the renovation will start in the fall of 2019 and last a year-and-a-half.

But before that can happen, the Department of Public Works and the library need to come up with an innovative design, and they want to make sure it serves the people who use the library the most.

“We’re here to find out more about the mission and more about the library that you all love,” said Mindy Linetzky, the library’s director of communication.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Linetzky facilitated a casual conversation, eliciting from those in attendance what they like and don’t like as much about the Mission Public Library.

The last time the 1915 building was renovated was in 1998– before WiFi and the Internet reigned. “Technology has transformed the way libraries and librarians deliver service,” said Andy Sohn, an architect with the Department of Public Works.

Sohh and library representatives referred to making the building have more “flexible and adaptable” rooms, and transparency in each room.

As a designated historic landmark, none of the grandeur of the reading room or fine detailing in the molding are at risk. There are some on the Library Commission who would like to see some of the original design elements restored — including re-opening the main entrance on 24th street and reconstructing the old staircase that opened up in the middle of the reading room.

But all of these ideas are still just that — ideas. The library will continue to collect surveys from community members and will hold another conversation on June 12 at 9 am. In the fall, they will hold a series of workshops with city architects and planners, at which community members can give feedback to initial design ideas.

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