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: