The Mission branch library at 24th Street and Bartlett. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Mission residents ready to hit the books gained a few more options last week as another handful of public library branches reopened to full service. But, for now, all the options involve a bit of a hike. 

Don’t despair: A temporary library may be coming soon, said Cathy Delneo, San Francisco Public Library’s Chief of Branches. 

“We are in conversation with community partners to establish the location of a temporary site for the Mission Branch, and will share more information about the temporary site as soon as it has been finalized,” said Delneo. 

The neighborhood is currently only served eight hours a week by a bookmobile outside John O’Connell High School at Harrison and 20th streets. Besides pickup service for books reserved online, and a handful of books that are free for the taking, the bookmobile doesn’t offer much else. 

The timeframe for when the new temporary site would open was not specified. Like a regular library, the temporary location is expected to have public computers and seating areas, Delneo said. 

When the last remaining neighborhood branches reopen next month, the Mission branch at 24th and Bartlett streets will be the only one in the library system to remain closed. Plans for a $19.8 million renovation, in the works for more than three years, are expected to break ground this winter, and construction will span 18 to 25 months. That means a reopening would come in mid-2023, at the earliest.

And readers are not happy. “It’s just so detrimental,” said Ebony Manion, a teacher at the Synergy School around the corner on 25th Street. 

In addition to the organized activities the library offers and the skills youth can develop by having to look for information at the library, Manion added that the library can serve as “a safe haven” from the street, where kids can hang out and wait in between school and evening extracurriculars. 

Manion, who thought the library was closed because of the pandemic, said she was a regular at the Mission branch, where she’d check out dozens of books to keep on display for her students since her school’s library has a limited selection. In a crunch, she could even hurry down the block during her break to pick up a book. 

“With it being closed, of course, you have to order books — or just have less,” Manion said.

And for parents without enough money for extracurricular activities, the library is that much more important. “Things in SF are expensive … What else do [parents] have other than parks?” asked Elizabeth Barillas, an employee at nearby Beloved Cafe. 

Within the Mission, library access is only available twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the bookmobile. Nearby branches in the vicinity that reinstated full service last week include Bernal Heights, Eureka Valley, Glen Park, and Noe Valley. If you can make the hike, the Potrero Hill branch is expected to reopen in August. 

The Main Library at 100 Larkin St. has been open since May, and is currently home to the Mission branch’s adult Spanish fiction collection — the library system’s largest. 

“Rather than returning collections to Mission Branch for what could only be a brief time before construction begins, the Library is focused on resuming in-person services at our branch libraries and on launching a temporary service location for Mission’s entire renovation closure,” Delneo said, when asked why the branch can’t open between now and the start of renovations. 

She confirmed that “limited demolition” has begun inside the Mission branch, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic in March, 2020. 

According to the project’s Department of Public Works page, the Mission branch currently “lacks space to hold quality programs and the building’s systems are at the end of their service life.” 

The project is part of an effort to also renovate the Chinatown and Ocean View branches, as the three locations were the only ones in the public library system that were not updated through the Branch Library Improvement Program bond, which renovated or constructed 24 branch libraries between 2000 and 2014. 

The renovation plans include an outdoor reading room, a community room, and extensions to accommodate activity rooms — all while preserving and restoring the second-floor grand reading room. A new main central stairway will be installed and the entrance on 24th Street will be restored. 

The Mission bookmobile is open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

The following libraries are open with full service: 

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. There is no way to know when construction will start and how long it will take. Everyone who’s waited for a crew knows this. Open the library now please and meanwhile plan a temporary space. I’m an elder and can’t just ‘hop on a bus’.

  2. Agree with poor planning. The library should open when others did and not hesitate to do so. I’m a working elder and can’t just ‘hop on a bus’. I’m an avid reader and Amazon has thrived during CoVid. I have a box of new books to donate. There is no way to count on construction starting and how long it will take. Everyone knows this who’s waited. Open now, plan a temporary space and be ready, please.

  3. On the library website it says ‘they can’t find staff’ is the reason. Misleading. I’m an elder and can’t ‘hop on a bus’. I’m quite upset. My husband is an architect and I know construction delays. There is no way they can count on it beginning at any date. The library should open immediately and make plans for a temporary location in the meantime.

  4. Thanks for deciding to post favorable comments and deleting criticism. I’ve been a long time reader. Good luck with your blog.

  5. While I agree with poor planning this time around (I’d bet Covid could have cancelled plans for a nearby temporary space) may I suggest hopping on the 49 bus? drops you off only 2 short blocks from the Main. One more solution in addition to the bookmobile. fyi the Mission branch should be reopening in 2024; I attended a couple of their planning meetings and that was their target date :

  6. Covid or no, they knew this renovation was coming, so why weren’t they prepared? This is not this library’s first renovation. The last time, they rented a floor of the bank building at 22nd and Mission (the one across from Wells Fargo) and they were ready to go when the library closed. (And why haven’t they been working on the renovation? They can’t claim COVID. I know too many people who have remained employed during the whole thing on city construction projects.) That “book mobile” doesn’t cut it. Days/hours/services are too limited and, of course, it being located in this “transit first” city that never actually considers transit, it’s not in a transit friendly location.

  7. with all the commercial vacancies in the mission, I’m surprised that in the past 18 months, SFPL has not made plans for a temporary location. I assumed the library was closed because of covid, then heard it was closed for renovation (the 2nd in the past 15 or 20 years). I’m not sure why the renovation did not start during this closed period, but to hear it still hasn’t started AND there is no plan for a relocation for the next couple of years seems like poor planning.

  8. Would like to point out that Eureka Valley and Bernal Heights do not have Spanish-speaking librarians. Noe and Glen Park only have Spanish-speaking librarians because they are redeployed from Mission Branch. No Spanish-speaking staff at the bookmobile. Our community needs staff that knows the community, and our language. It is appalling that we are not a priority for SFPL. Not all of us want or can travel to the Main. Excelsior has a large adult and children’s Spanish collection, and a Spanish-speaking branch manager. Very welcoming, I suggest that as an easy option via the 14 or 49 on Mission: 4000 Mission St. Bernal has a small Adult collection, but Noe, Eureka and Potrero only have Spanish children’s books. Wish that was mentioned above from Cathy Delneo. The Latinx community does not have equal access to Spanish and Latin@-focused materials as English readers have to English materials.

  9. It’s frustrating that the city is not making this a priority, and seems to think that the Mission community can simply go without a full working library. Also, why were they not working on this renovation over the past year when it was closed? And there is no information about this renovation or the timeline posted at the library itself, and it’s hard to find anything online.