We are touched and heartened by the outpouring of sentiment and affection for the beloved Fort Mason bookstore. Thank you for being our fans and supporters for so many years. It was a good run, and we share your sadness that it had to end.
We want you to know that it was a difficult decision to shutter our iconic bookstore. We want to share with you the considerations behind the closure and what the future holds.
The Board and staff of Friends have been considering changes to the structure of the book program for some time, in order to more effectively serve our mission for the San Francisco Public Library, which is to raise funds to augment Library programs, and ensuring access to books and resources to diverse communities across the city.
We hope the Book Program will fulfill this mission in three ways:
1. raising additional funds through earned revenue by selling donated books;
2. donating books to low-income communities through organizations and schools;
3. providing access to inexpensive books through our stores, events, and pop-ups in the community.
Closure and relocation of the Fort Mason bookstore were under discussion before the COVID-19 pandemic. The unexpected rampage of the pandemic and mandated health orders resulted in expediting decisions to avoid significant damage to the survival of Friends.
Here is what you should know:
Financial survival in a global pandemic. The shelter-in-place order in March shut down the possibility of conducting retail sales, forcing the furlough of some employees and ultimately the elimination of positions. These are terrible decisions that no one ever wants to have to make. Only now are we beginning to inch back into online sales with stringent limitations on the volunteers and staff, with safety protocols in compliance with the San Francisco Health Officer.
Expensive leases. Friends was burdened by increasingly expensive leases in San Francisco, including our administrative offices at 710 Van Ness Avenue, that had begun to affect how well we could carry out our mission to the Library.
The Fort Mason Center lease. In particular, the Fort Mason lease and the way it was structured precluded any opportunity to keep the lease through the pandemic and reopen after it ended.
For the remainder of the epidemic, we will focus on online sales, and then slowly add back face-to-face sales and literary events. In addition, we will have the flexibility of inventing something new, whether it is a brick and mortar location, or pop-up style traveling stores.
Although these changes have been hard, we are hopeful about the future of a new book program. Making these tough decisions unleashes the creativity and flexibility we need for the future.
The one thing we do know is that we need and want you. We ask you for your ideas and for your support as we rebuild. We have no doubt that we will emerge even stronger and look forward to continuing to work with you to spread our vision for the Library and for community literacy across the city.
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
Writing in Lockdown - the Brown Handler Residents share their work in conversation with Lisa Brown and Daniel Handler.
Two years ago, Lisa Brown and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) created this Writer's Residency to provide local writers with free, adequate, and accessible space to produce creative work in San Francisco. Residents were able to work directly with the Library in tandem with their creative projects. The residents were using the space until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since shelter in place went into effect, the physical space component of the residency has not been possible, but the community built around the residency is still thriving. To catch up with the five talented writers, we have launched a six-part interview series with the current residents. In the series, now available on our YouTube channel and on our Library Friends Podcast feed, Lisa Brown and Daniel Handler check in with all the talented residents about how they are adapting to creatively working from home.
Each writer shares an excerpt of what they worked on during their residency year. Amanda Moore, a poet who draws inspiration from San Francisco and the neighborhoods she's lived in, shares poems that evokes the feeling of walking through the city. Shruti Swamy, a fiction writer, reads a story from her new book called A House is a Body, coming out on August 11th.
Don't miss these exciting conversations. Watch it below, or listen to it on our Library Friends Podcast!
Friends has started a new campaign called Voices Unite, to share and celebrate our unique community of librarians, library workers and patrons. In all of our content, including our new Library Friends podcast, we are posting interviews with these changemakers in our community. These intimate conversations give you a chance to learn more about the extraordinary people you used to pass by at the Library before the shelter-in-place order.
In May 2020, we interviewed Librarian turned Disaster Service Worker, Alan Wong. We also spoke with Daniel Matsumoto, an eResources Librarian at SFPL, about how the Library’s online services are adapting to the influx of traffic. Another can’t-miss conversation is an interview with historian and advocate Peter Booth Wiley on how the Library’s past can help us understand this turbulent new present, and how we can prepare for the future.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been hard on everyone, but from quarantine, librarians have taken the opportunity to innovate and engage with the public in free and accessible ways. These library workers are continuing the Library’s mission of free access to all, and Friends is here to provide additional financial support for technology, equipment and services to help tell this important story of public service.
Subscribe to the Library Friends Podcast and hear these stories:
I wanted to share with you the SFPL's official statement on the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, as well as the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people of color, especially African Americans. This statement was crafted by the SFPL Racial Equity Committee and Commission President Dr. Mary Wardell Ghirarduzzi, and makes clear that the Library stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and supports all efforts to end the systemic racism and inequality in our communities.
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library stands with the Library in its response and by our work for equitable access to resources and opportunity without racial and economic barriers. The library is the only institution that provides all of its resources - material, virtual, and human – free for everyone. It is the foundation of our democracy and embodies the call from communities around the world to embrace, nurture, and empower those who have the least and those who suffer the most from discrimination. Your dedicated support keeps our Library strong as a vital institution of justice and fairness.
When we think libraries, many of us think – BOOKS! But, libraries are so much more and are often the heart of a community. Libraries play host to arts and culture events, including music, author readings, museum exhibits, children’s storytime, and more. Libraries also provide and facilitate critical services, such as job support and educational activities.
Those who work in our libraries also play a critical role during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, San Francisco librarians have become essential front-line workers, helping with communications, homeless services, distribution of resources, and guidance to vulnerable populations.
In a special episode of the News in Context podcast, Host Gina Baleria, also a board member of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, interviews three people responsible for making the San Francisco Public Library the beloved and award-winning place it is.
The panel represents various aspects of SFPL.
The panel and I explore the context of libraries and their role in communities – both every day… and during a crisis, as well as what the San Francisco Public Library is doing right now to support the community and those most vulnerable during this critical time.
Listen to News in Context every Friday at 8:30 am and 6:30 pm on 102.5 KSFP in San Francisco, or on your favorite podcast channel.
Alan Wong is a Librarian at the busy Excelsior Branch, who currently mobilized as a 'Disaster Service Worker' in the wake of COVID-19. We spoke with Alan (via mobile phone) to see how librarians are helping the City of San Francisco during this turbulent time.
What was the typical day look like before COVID-19?
Before COVID-19 times, my day would start when the branch opens. We have our quiet time that's when our regular patrons come in. I usually interact with our Chinese seniors who come in to read our Chinese newspapers or patrons who use the computer every day. Then around 11:00 a.m., we have our groups that come in for storytime. We see nannies with strollers and young schoolchildren holding the little rope coming in. That is how you know it is almost lunchtime. Then usually around 3:00 p.m., that is when schools let out, and all the kids come pouring into our library. There are about ten schools around us, a mix of public and private, elementary, middle, and a high school, so we get a large gathering of kids after school of all ages.
What does your typical day look like now after COVID-19?
Before the mayor announced Shelter in Place, some Disaster Service Workers were already activated, and right now, I'm still a Disaster Service Worker. My typical day is that I go to the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, on 101 by Cesar Chavez. I go with about 20 other Librarians, Techs, Pages, and we work together to put pack bags of produce and food for those in need. We create an assembly [sic] line of products like 50 pounds of potatoes and onions, boxes of apples and oranges, and bags of rice; then we go down the line and pack bags of produce for the public.
How many other librarians are on the front lines with you?
We have a good amount of librarians that I work with. At the food bank, I have coworkers from the West Portal, North Beach, and Richmond Branches.
Do you miss your patrons?
Yes, I have not seen any of them, which worries me, especially with my older patrons, but also my younger patrons who I see every day after school I miss. Even though they are always sneaking their chips and candy, it is normal for them to see me and then pretend not to see me as they sneak food, but that is all part of the fun.
We hope the library can come back soon at its full capacity.
Yes, I am very happy that everyone is using our online resources now, but once COVID-19 and the Shelter in Place are over, I hope to see you all come into the branch.
For the full interview with Alan Wong, listen to our Library Friends Podcast.
To celebrate San Francisco's Month of Climate Action, Friends has an exclusive interview with author Mary Ellen Hannibal about San Francisco, Covid-19, and citizen science. Hannibal is an award-winning author and journalist. Her most recent book, Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction, was named one of the best titles of 2016 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Reporting deeply, Hannibal digs into the origins of today's tech-savvy citizen science movement – tracing it back through centuries of amateur observations by writers and naturalists. Enjoy this interview!
The Coronavirus is top on everyone's mind, what do you think about it?
The reason we have this pandemic is because of habitat destruction around the world. We're taking viruses out of their native ecosystems, the plants and animals that have co-evolved to not be affected by them, and suddenly it finds a new host in humans.
It's a real wakeup call on why we need to stop this mass extinction that's going on, and we need to get much better information on where these plants and animals are. The way we do that is by citizen science.
Yes, citizens science! I love the iNaturalist app.
iNaturalist is amazing. It's fantastic, we can use it today to take action. Once it gets people out and to observe what's outside, that's the first step.
What has been your interaction with the Wallace Stegner Environmental Center at the San Francisco Public Library?
I love the Stegner center; it's a valuable resource. When I was writing The Spine of the Continent that came out in 2012, the Stegner librarian was very helpful. I needed to find government documents having to do with livestock regulation and transportation regulation around the environment. The center was a fantastic resource for me, not only what Stegner had and its collection but the Librarian knowing where to find relevant information in the government collections. I have to say, a writer like me cannot do this work without a good library, and the San Francisco Public Library is such a library. Having a specific collection around the environment is really helpful, and I want it to grow more and more.
You also worked with the Stegner Center for a map of the city?
Yes, the current Stegner Librarian, Kelley Trahan, and I were on a team on making a map of nature in the city. She was super helpful, and this map is available to purchase from the nonprofit, Nature in The City. It's a wonderful resource. I wrote it, Jane Kim illustrated it, and the Academy of Science and The Exploratorium were also involved. The Library was a great resource because I had to research a lot of history of the land and land-use changes as the map includes an understanding of those impacts on species that live on that land. I researched how these systems are constructed and how they unravel, and how we can reconstruct them in some places.
The role of nature in our is more and more important, partly because we have a lot of people who care. People can plant where they live, native plants, and it can become refugia (an area that allows a species to evade extinction). Your windowsill can provide resources for hummingbirds and bees and butterflies. If you give them a chance to get their resources, you're supporting them in their life histories.
Thoughts on Wallace Stegner, the person?
Wallace Stegner is a legendary, special writer who wrote a couple of classic novels, Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety. He also wrote an amazingly important book called Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, about the first surveyor who mapped the American West in the 1800s. He said back then that we shouldn't build out West because of the water. Everyone ignored him, but he was completely right.
It's wonderful that the Library is named for him; he is really someone to know. He has become kind of a symbol of the literary West. He was never reviewed in the New York Times but won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, so he's a figure who stands for how the East Coast intelligentsia never understands the West.
And your Ted talk comes out on April 1?
Yes, I focus on monarch butterflies, which is appropriate for the San Francisco Bay Area because we are one of the sites where we see a vast decline in monarch butterflies. I don't talk about the virus because it was filmed in December, but I do talk about extinction and what we can do.
You can use iNaturalist very easily, very close to home, and while keeping social distance. Discover your city, discover your block, discover your backyard, discover the park. There is nature everywhere. Look at iNaturalist on your desktop, zero in on where you live. I always want to see butterflies. So I go onto the app and see where people saw butterflies yesterday, because they are probably there today. I can go and see them myself.
Citizen Science Resources:
SciStarter - scistarter.org
Journey North - journeynorth.org
iNaturalist - inaturalist.org
Xerces - xerces.org
As we shelter in place, we are keenly aware of how precious our loved ones and community are to us. First, thank you so much for the work you are doing to stay sheltered and follow the directives of city officials to bring our community through this unprecedented global crisis.
I also know that you care greatly about our beloved San Francisco Public Library and that its closure is difficult. I am writing to update you about how the Library and Friends are responding to the crisis.
What is happening at the Library? All 28 libraries are currently closed to regular business. When they can reopen, we can expect there will be no programming offered outside of basic library services through the end of May. However, the Library is still actively providing critical services to the San Francisco community.
You may have heard that the Library was engaged in a massive effort to convert library buildings into emergency childcare centers to augment childcare capacity for healthcare workers (with distancing protocols). Put on hold after the Mayor’s shelter in place order, it appears that the Library may again be able to activate this program for our heroic healthcare workers and their families. We will keep you posted if the program reopens. Additionally, where possible, Library staff members have been deployed to assist other city departments and community organizations on food distribution and services for our most vulnerable residents.
The Library is also operating as usual in its virtual form. This is an opportune moment to explore its vast offerings of electronic collections and applications. The Library’s IT department has been hard at work ensuring that students, parents, and teachers have access to online resources through the Scholar Card Program and tutoring services through applications like Brain Fuse. Additionally, you and your family can access streaming and eServices, including eBooks, movies, classes, historical documents, etc., for both education and entertainment.
We are grateful for the continued provision of free resources and the public service of our dedicated Library leaders and staff. We are also immensely proud and grateful to all of you who have taken active roles for many years as advocates and donors in supporting the strong public library infrastructure that is making the difference in San Francisco right now.
What is happening at Friends? With our staff working from home, Friends continues to operate in all areas except the Book Program. In line with the Mayor’s and Governor’s shelter in place orders, we have closed the Donation Centers and both the bookstores indefinitely. In the coming weeks, I will be able to provide updates on the Book Program and other book-related events.
Along with promoting the eServices of the Library and providing you with regular updates, Friends is also in the planning process of producing other media, such as a Friends’ podcast series and possibly streaming storytimes by branch Librarians. Please visit our website and our social media channels for updates.
Our work to support and protect the Library continues unabated. In that vein, I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the campaign we have launched for the Library’s future. Below is a podcast that lays out our new Campaign for the Future of the Library detailing how Friends will meet the needs of the Library over the next five years. The podcast is a recording of the presentation made by the City Librarian, Michael Lambert, and myself at the annual Mary Louise Stong Breakfast on Friday, February 7th. This is a great overview of our plans, and you will hear more about it later.
My thoughts and wishes for good health and safety go out to all of you in this unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty. We will make certain that we continue to bring the comforts, joys, and power of the Library to you as best we can.
P.S. Friends will assuredly do all that we can now and be ready for the Library when the crisis is over. Please feel free to support us now if you are moved and if you can. We are truly grateful.
The Library Friends Podcast is a way for you to get more connected with the Library. We have fantastic content planned for the next couple of months that includes author interviews, Library programs, profiles of librarians, and recordings of special events.
Our latest episode, The Future of Our Library: Inside Out, is a presentation from City Librarian Michael Lambert and Executive Director of Friends of the Library, Marie Ciepiela. They discuss Friends' Strategic Plan for the Library and the three upcoming renovations at the Mission, Chinatown, and Oceanview Branches. You'll also hear from Board Chair Beth Kelly, and Board Member Jay Auslander during the presentation. Stay tuned until the end to hear from City Archivist, Susan Goldstein, talk about the incredible materials available to the public in the SF History Center on the 6th Floor of the Main!
Find the podcast by searching "Library Friends Podcast" on your favorite podcasting app, or by clicking the links below:
Every year we had to spend the evening of February 28th with our next-door neighbors, Barney and Emma. They were a couple whom we struggled to connect meaningfully with. Their apartment was the mirror floor plan of ours, and they were demographically identical to us, but the most delightful little coincidence was that we and they had the same anniversary.
Technically that’s not correct. Our anniversary was Leap Day, February 29th, which famously does not return every year. When Barney and Emma found out about this, they insisted we celebrate our anniversary with them, as if we were children with summer birthdays, and they were teachers pitying us with an ice cream social.
As we stepped into their apartment for their first anniversary we had the feeling of being subjugated. It was not our anniversary. Our anniversary was arguably the next day, but technically it was on a day that squeezed itself into and out of the calendar as a mischievous little treat. The forces of conformity, we felt, were bringing us into line.
We spent the evening cheersing. We got wine teeth. And slowly we regained our confidence, as we realized that they were boring. They were both good-looking, with clear skin and expensive tattoos. She wore makeup competently, he was pretty tall. Their conversation topics were well-reviewed podcasts and documentaries, or sometimes a debate prompt like, “Is a hotdog a sandwich,” meant to provoke good-natured pedantry. Their apartment was put-together, with the spider plants and the end tables and the tasteful bong. It was stimulating because it was stultifying, in that it made us think compulsively about their sex life. The source of their interest in each other, when they seemed so dull, had to be that which was concealed, and it had to be pretty compelling. But we equally enjoyed thinking that wasn’t the case at all: that their shallow and conventional relation to each other went all the way down, and they had no secret. And naturally we enjoyed thinking that they were thinking the same of us, and how wrong that would make them.
We went mad with smugness. It seemed thematically harmonious with the difference between the basic February 28th and the idiosyncratic February 29th. We went back into our own apartment clinging to each other and immediately made love.
They brought us around again the next year. February 28th. Technically, our first anniversary had not yet come to pass. It was Barney and Emma’s second. This time it was a party. Heterosexual couples populated the apartment and Barney and Emma took on the energetic aspects of hosts. We brought some chairs over from our apartment as well as plain potato chips. It was as humid as a gym. We learned which couples were married and which couples were engaged. We agreed that the corniest thing that could happen this evening would be for Barney and Emma to get engaged. Which is what they did. In high school, people go out for four years without ever moving beyond mouth stuff, but when you’re 30, people go out for two years and then get married. We found ourselves clapping and even slightly crying. In the face of so much joy, and pride, and social reward, our smugness felt adolescent and unbecoming. Who were we to imply that they were marrying simply to follow convention, or rather, that that was at odds with emotional actualization? What did we know about them? And how stupid were we not to see what they saw plainly, and had seen all their lives, which was that enjoying convention was akin to having a button that you could push for an instant orgasm, and pushing it over and over again, with no fear of reprisal, and no threat of insanity, and no diminishment of rapture?
The third year, on February 28th, they held their wedding. The date was to be carried into their married life as their wedding anniversary. They would have a bashful little routine to do for the rest of their lives, exactly like ours, “Well, it’s our first anniversary, well, technically our fourth, well, who’s counting…”
Barney and Emma’s wedding took place in the stunning botanical garden walking distance from our apartment. We were not invited. We were not, in truth, their friends, only their neighbors. We agreed to take care of their dog during the tumultuous day. Their dog had the same name as everyone else’s dog, and occupied the sweet spot of photogenic but not purebred. The dog was a celebrity on Instagram and had hundreds of thousands of followers. It had had several traumatic experiences on airplanes, flying for trips related to its quick rise to fame, so it was now too nervous to attend the wedding.
We allowed ourselves to think it an ill omen for their marriage. The way they maneuvered this child-substitute, the avatar of innocence, as a prop for their vanity. We didn’t think the voice they gave the dog in its Instagram captions was very fitting for the dog. Naturally we envisioned the dog as a baby, and Barney and Emma as narcissistic parents.
“You’re famous,” we told the dog. “You have three hundred and fifty thousand Instagram followers.” It had no reaction, which was the point.
Come now into our apartment, we told the dog. We encircled it conspiratorially like witches and passed our hands over it. The dog will like us better than its parents. It will see something and know something about us. But instead it got too nervous and peed on the carpet and cried and cried. When Barney and Emma came to retrieve it, giddy drunk and profusely thankful, they were married and it was the early hours of March 1st. We decided that taking care of a baby was actually easier than taking care of a dog, or even a plant. Because it was made of the same things as you and you knew what it needed. And also because you loved it more.
The fourth year, February 28th was at last followed by February 29th. Leap Day. But by that date Barney and Emma, the couple, did not exist anymore. Barney had succumbed early to his midlife crisis and had left not only the apartment but his career and the state, and was never heard from again. Emma kept the dog, who lost an eye to an infection and became even more beloved online wearing little outfits with eye patches.
So we spent Leap Day, our first anniversary, after four years, alone. The traditional first-anniversary present theme is paper, and the fourth anniversary present theme is flowers or fruit, so we made each other crude flowers and fruits out of paper, and had a silly time smelling them and biting them, saying, “Mmm, smells like nothing,” and, “How fibrous, you know, the roughage is good for you.” From the point of view of this story, this might seem like the first time we were properly alone together. But that’s not true. We actually spent almost all our time alone together, and our deranged jealousy and contempt of our good-looking neighbors didn’t preoccupy more than a week of each year. Now that their relationship was over, we marveled at how accelerated the whole thing had been, from courtship to divorce, and our smugness crept back. We, on the other hand, had spent four years coming to our first anniversary, luxurious and slow like a blooming flower. That Leap Day we had the sense that we were living against a unique clock that was stopped most of the time and only ticked down rarely, and that our slow progress afforded us secret hours. This, of course, was a grave error, and a wild misinterpretation of the nature of things. ⬛