A library official apologized before the Library Commission Thursday the long, drawn-out process of selecting a temporary site to serve the Mission District while the Mission branch is closed for renovations. She went on to announce that the library is now considering renting a storefront in the neighborhood.
Up until this point, efforts had been focused on finding a space to co-locate with a local nonprofit or other institution in the Mission, said San Francisco Public Library Chief of Branches Cathy Delneo. However, acknowledging that the process has taken longer than anticipated, she said that the library is now working “in earnest” with the city’s Real Estate Division to potentially rent out an open property instead.
“I want to sincerely apologize for the fact that our plans are not coming to fruition as quickly as we had hoped,” said Delneo. “I want to assure the community in the Mission that we recognize the importance of providing more complete library service to you, and that we are working diligently to make that a reality as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, Delneo also said that her team is looking to expand the hours at the Mission bookmobile from two to four days per week. The bookmobile, at John O’Connell High School at 20th and Harrison streets, is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and residents can pick up previously reserved books here.
Library spokeswoman Kate Patterson told Mission Local that an increase in service would hopefully start within a few weeks.
The Mission Branch has been closed for a year and a half, since the start of the pandemic, and will remain closed for at least another two years for renovations, which will bring air conditioning and smoke filtration, a new addition to the building and more community spaces and restrooms.
The renovation plans, which, have been in the works for close to three years now, are now projected to start in the spring of 2022, San Francisco Public Works architect Andy Sohn said during his presentation before the commission.
In addition to yet another delay in the expected date to break ground, Sohn announced that nearly $5 million has been tacked onto the original $19.8 million budget for the renovation project. Now, the project is expected to cost $24.7 million.
Sohn attributed the budget increase to various “unforeseen issues,” including installing power lines and trenching to switch the building’s primary power services from PG&E to the Public Utilities Commission, pandemic-related delays, as well as inflation and the increasing costs of building materials.
“We’ve got 5 percent anticipated inflation in 2022,” Sohn said, “And the issue has to do with supplies of materials that are backlogged, skilled labor shortages, and material escalations, so that the cost of building materials have gone up between 25 percent and 40 percent.”
Sohn showed new renderings of the new library’s main reading room, with shorter shelves, a teen room addition, and a community room where the Bartlett Street entrance is today.
For now, to browse books or access computing services, Mission residents will have to visit library branches in other neighborhoods. While the Mission is currently among the least serviced districts when it comes to library offerings (Treasure Island only gets its bookmobile once a week), the library system is still slowly rolling out full service to other neighborhoods.
Earlier this week, the Main branch reinstated seven-day and evening service. Meanwhile, all other branches of the library are open only five days each week, with no evening service.
By Oct. 2, Delneo said four additional branches will restore library service to seven days per week: Bernal, Eureka Valley, Merced, and Ocean View. Another batch of library branches is expected to launch seven-day service in November, and all communities should have seven-day service by early 2022, Delneo said.
Patterson, a library spokeswoman, confirmed that the Mission community is included in that goal.
A community meeting for Mission residents is in the works, during which an update will be provided on the renovation project and new design drawings will be shared, said City Librarian Michael Lambert. The meeting time and place is yet to be determined, but Lambert said it should take place by the end of next month.
Update: This story was updated at 4:38 p.m. with responses from a library spokesperson.