After being closed for more than a year, the San Francisco Public Library will reopen three of its branches next month for limited indoor service, city officials said Tuesday.
The city's libraries have been closed for indoor service since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, and since then, librarians have been busy serving as emergency services workers during the city's going response to the virus.
Under the public library reopening timeline, The Main Library at 100 Larkin St. will reopen its first floor on May 3. After that, on May 17, the Chinatown-Him Mark Lai Library 1135 Powell St. will reopen and then on May 18, the Mission Bay Library at 960 Fourth St. will also reopen.
For the reopenings, the Public Library has developed the "Browse and Bounce" program, which allows patrons to browse through library collections, access free public computers, and return or checkout materials.
The new program will operate at the three branches in conjunction with the current SFPL To-Go program, which provides front-door pick up service at 15 library branches and four book mobile locations.
"I want to thank all of the library staff, along with all the other city workers, who have been serving San Francisco's COVID response for more than a year now," Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "I know that people have really been missing the library, and though we've adapted to provide more to-go options and online resources, there's nothing quite like getting to browse the shelves and pick out your next book."
"We've missed each and every one of our library patrons, just as much as they've missed us and we are so proud to start welcoming them back inside," City Librarian Michael Lambert said. "Over the past few months, we have been hard at work laying the foundation for an in-person service that follows the latest public health guidance and safety protocols to protect our staff and patrons."
Since March 2020, library staff have been reassigned to work as disaster service workers at places like food pantries, COVID-19 testing sites, shelter-in-place hotels, and Community Hubs.
In addition, library staff have also served as contract tracers, case investigators and outreach workers. Library officials are anticipating opening additional floors at the Main Library and other neighborhood branches as staffing permits.
For now, capacity at the libraries with indoor service will be limited and patrons will be required to practice social distancing and wear masks. Additionally, no chairs will be permitted for sitting, reading or studying, library officials said.