Molly McCall, children's bookmobile librarian, stands next to book bundles she created at a "pop-up" library in the Mission. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

You can tell Molly McCall loves her job.

Standing next to a shelf of book bundles she curated — “my babies,” she called them — her abundant felicity is fitting for a children’s bookmobile librarian.

During the pandemic, McCall said, the library bought a lot of new books. The bundles helped get the books out to the neighborhood kids and were “a fun way for people to try new things.”

A regular dropped by to pick up some books, and McCall greeted her by name.

She and other San Francisco Public Library staff are serving the Mission community from a bookmobile parked at John O’Connell High School on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The SFPL To Go Go – Pop-up Pick-up Service provides a hold shelf, a few new books for checkout, and information about other library services like interloan, which allows people to borrow books San Francisco branches do not have from other libraries. There are several bins of free books, too.

“We’re providing this library service while Mission Branch is closed … because they’re doing this big, exciting renovation,” said McCall. She hinted that they might be expanding the bookmobile service, as well but can’t say much more. Earlier this year, the library said it was looking for a temporary space but has yet to find one. 

Originally, McCall didn’t think she was cut out to be a librarian.

“I thought I was too loud,” she said (and laughs joyfully). “But being a children’s librarian is actually the perfect match.”

“Of course, there’s a place for quiet and study, and libraries are thoughtful places,” McCall said. But she emphasizes the modern library is also “vibrant, lively.” 

The Mission branch is a great example, she said. “When you go in to Mission branch, you see how just totally alive it is and how filled with people of every age.”

McCall has now worked for more than ten years in libraries in San Francisco and the Peninsula.  

She currently lives in Bernal Heights, where the local branch is open. She said she loves how both the Mission and Bernal branches are “old Carnegie libraries,” that is, a library built with donations from steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“They’re neighborhood libraries, but they really have a sense of grandeur,” she said, noting that each branch also has a “great, welcoming place for kids.”

Before libraries, McCall worked for an independent bookseller, Kepler’s Books & Magazines, and for Yahoo as a writer-editor.

“In library school, I was struck by how librarians or library students are coming from all different walks of life and all ages,” she said. “It enriches the profession.”

During the pandemic, McCall, along with many other librarians, was activated as a disaster service worker. She said she went from making video tutorials for kids about how to access virtual library services to serving meals to homeless people and contact tracing (“which was very intense”). 

“It was a great use of library staff,” said McCall. “We’re public servants.” 

But she was glad to find her way back to the library.

“It’s always been about books and reading and information,” she said. “And then when I finally came back, when I came to this, I felt like everything was just leading in together.”

Anlan Cheney

"Annie" is a reporting intern covering public health. She is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of the high school newsletter. She has since studied peace studies...

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6 Comments

  1. I can’t say how thrilled I am that such a dynamic person is in this position. I was in her position myself when covid hit, and had been for the previous 5 years. It makes me very very happy to know such a marvelous librarian is there now. It’s an intense and demanding role, and requires a great deal of flexibility and imagination. It’s obvious Molly’s got what it takes.

  2. We used to live down the street from the Excelsior Library, and our then-preschool aged daughter was on a first name basis with “Librarian Molly”, who planned wonderful programs (like an Elephant & Piggy themed storytime party and pumpkin carving at Halloween) and made thoughtful book recommendations. We were thrilled to be able to “see” her during the pandemic on the SFPL Storytimes online… you can get a glimpse of her energy and positivity there. Mission is lucky to have her!

  3. Oh she’s great! Her book bundles are a fantastic idea and are curated so well. My kids love them. The bookmobile has been a critical resource for us during the pandemic.

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