Monday marks the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library's Main Branch after more than a year of it being closed — though free browsing and unlimited internet terminal usage isn't coming back just yet.
The Main Branch at Grove and Larkin streets reopened Monday morning to immediate cheers from library staff as they watched patrons come streaming in the doors again.
Omg the library just reopened & people lined up and were so excited and the library staff gave an ovation when they walked through the door.— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) May 3, 2021
Just loving human beings so much right now.
Welcome back in, SF! (Sound UP!)— SF Public Library (@SFPublicLibrary) May 3, 2021
👏👏👏 Today, our Main Library opened its doors for browsing. It warms our hearts ♥️ to see familiar faces and fans of the Library!
Chinatown and Mission Bay—coming to you next. More info: https://t.co/j9bwLWJgmP. pic.twitter.com/tzk5R1L96r
Library patrons are now permitted to browse bookshelves, check out books and DVDs, and use the library's computers — but only for 50 minutes. The SFPL is calling this "Browse and Bounce," and it's not entirely clear how it will be enforced.
As Hoodline reported last month, the library's SFPL To-Go program remains operational, allowing bookworms and movie buffs to place holds on items online and then pick them up at the door of the library, if they don't want to go inside.
But, for 50 minutes at a time, San Franciscans can now return to the library to do their own browsing. Computer terminals will be spaced out more than before, for safer distanced use. And self-checkout stations will be open, in addition to front desk services.
"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," said City Librarian Michael Lambert in a statement. "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."
Hundreds of SFPL staff were put to work as Disaster Services Workers over the past year, helping with the city's COVID-19 response in various roles — so even if the library had been able to reopen sooner, some of these workers still had to be called back from their temporary jobs.
"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,” said Mayor Breed 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."
Following the Main Branch reopening on May 3 (Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.), the next branch to open will be Chinatown/Him Mark Lai Branch Library on Monday, May 17, followed by the Mission Bay Branch on Tuesday, May 18. Reopening dates for other branches are still TBA.