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