All of SF's libraries have remained shut for months now, leaving bibliophiles to live with just SFPL's online services and catalogs. But starting next month, San Franciscans can again start checking out physical books and other tangible media via the newly proposed "SFPL To Go" service.

The pandemic has hit our cultural institutions particularly hard. Museums are struggling, amassing mountains of debt; zoological facilities — across the nation — have had to either furlough or lay off most of their staff in lieu of ticket-buying guests; libraries, too, still are questioning how they'll operate amid this global health crisis that has no clear end in sight (no matter what the propaganda-filled posts your estranged relatives share ad nauseam on Facebook say).

However, one flicker of hope that at least our book bastions will return to some pre-pandemic normalcy was revealed this week when City Librarian Michael Lambert told the Library Commission Thursday of plans to start a contact-free pick up and delivery model.

According to the SF Examiner, SFPL's plan is to start opening up again and will start with offering pick up and drop-off services at both the Main Public Library and the Excelsior Branch Library. Aptly named "SFPL To Go," the service is set to match patrons with physical media — DVDs, CDs, books, magazines, etc. — next month.

Though, guests will not be allowed inside; patrons will be limited to only entryways where they can pick up the said materials they've requested earlier via “email, phone, or online.”

“I am fully aware of how anxious library staff and our beloved patrons are for reopening library services in our community,” said Lambert to the Library Commission Thursday night, per the newspaper. “And I am excited that we are now on the precipice of launching this service.”

Lambert and staff expect as much as 500 people embracing the service at 100 Larkin Street each day alone, with the Excelsior site guesstimated to see only a few dozen patrons each day.

SFPL's principal branch, before the pandemic hit with a demoralizing thud, had some 400 employees working on-site daily, but Lambert notes that number will be greatly reduced for safety reasons; only 100 staff are expected to work at a time — even on "the busiest days." Even far less will work at the Excelsior branch, Lambert later adding in that meeting the SFPL's Department of Human Resources will have a sufficient number of workers recalled to helm these libraries.

Library security will also be present to ensure "physical distancing is practiced that facial coverings are worn.” And to mitigate the risk of infections, all media will be placed inside paper bags by library staff for people to grab at each branch’s entrance. Once returned, those same materials will be quarantined for at least 72 hours before staff handles them again; SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen responsible for COVID-19, can live on most surfaces for a maximum of three days.

As of now, "SFPL To Go" is expected to operate at the Main Library Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., as well as on Sundays from noon to 5:30 p.m. sometime next month. The Excelsior branch, however, will only stay open Monday through Friday with the same hours previously mentioned for SFPL's central site. Other libraries are expected to open later down the line but, as the SF Examiner notes, those reopenings will need additional health and safety plan approvals for each site, as well as more staff.

So, yes: if you've been clenching onto an SFPL rental since March — you'll soon be able to return it. And pick up a new title from your summer reading list, all the while.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons