The San Francisco Public Library’s Mission branch is slated to undergo renovations in late 2020, a move that will increase square footage, add more restrooms and create new, multi-use spaces in the building — including a community meeting room. Although still on the distant horizon, the resulting 18-to-24-month closure is making some patrons a bit uneasy.

“Didn’t they just do this?” asked Emzel Looney, a retiree who has been going to the library for the past 25 years (The last major renovation here happened in 2000).

The busy branch is the third-most visited in the city, mostly by young children accompanied by their parents or caretakers, and by retired seniors. The SFPL is currently in the process of communicating with the community regarding the changes, and finding alternative places in the neighborhood to reallocate their services.

“We’re excited about it, because we’re going to be able to provide better service to the diverse community of users,” said branch manager Ramon Hernandez.

The $19.8 million project will also restore the historic stairway lost in the 2000 renovation, improve access, and provide a teen area and a quiet room, in an attempt to bring 21st century library services to the neighborhood.

“I was unaware of the renovation, and have no problem with the building for my own use, but maybe it will be better for those who are not able-bodied,” said Carlotta Cobb, a retired 40-year patron.

Rafael Sanchez, a young massage therapist, would welcome the addition of more computers for the community.

Emzel Looney, who doesn’t have such equipment at her house, also goes to the library to use it. “They could do something with the people who go to the computers just to sleep,” she said.

More than a dozen women with strollers, many of them caregivers, line up outside the Mission Branch library on a recent Tuesday morning. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.

Overall, folks’ main concern is the amount of time the library will be closed, and what to do in the meantime.

Edgar Ayala, a construction worker and father of three, takes his children to the library every week. “It is a lot of time,” he said. “I took them out of the school after-hours program because they released them too late, but now maybe I’ll have to pay for another after-school program. Here, it was free.”

Retired school-teacher Richard Illig welcomed the changes, but wondered what would happen with the books. “Where will they move everything? The books, the computers?”

Monica Casas, babysitter of a 2-year-old, had “heard something about it,” and wondered how the services were going to be reallocated.

“We come every week for toddler tales. I hope they realize the service they are giving, and do not discontinue it,” she said.

The Mission branch is still collecting input from community meetings, and will hold workshops with the architects and city planners to determine the direction of the project. More information and notifications on upcoming meetings can be found at the branch’s renovation website.