Letter to the Editor

Why won't the mayor and Board of Supervisors support adequate interim library services for all branches that are closed for renovations? Six of the San Francisco Public Library's 27 branches are currently closed for renovations, and only have bookmobiles providing minimal service as a substitute. The branches are: Anza, Park, Parkside, Presidio, Merced and Golden Gate Valley.

The bookmobiles are scheduled for only two days per week, for a total of 5 - 8 hours, at libraries that have in the past been open about 45 - 55 hours and six or seven days. Bookmobiles provide only a tiny space, no place to sit and read or study, no computer access, and do not routinely have a librarian on board. (In five visits on different days to two different bookmobiles, I found librarians only once.)

It's not lack of money - it's bad priorities.

Recently, in a bad economy, the library has saved millions of dollars in expected construction costs because many more bidders are providing much more competitive bids. In February, for example, the library reported saving $2.9 million in expected costs on just one. The library allocated all those savings - and more - to construction scope expansions totaling $8.4 million. It has continued to budget nothing for any interim service, such as a storefront or other nearby facility. Interim services do not have to be expensive.

For example, we have found multiple storefronts in the neighborhood of Park Branch that are available for $36,000 or less for a year - the entire time the branch is scheduled to be closed.

In a bond program that has already cost $189 million, at a library with an $83 million annual budget, we think Mayor Gavin Newsom and the supervisors should do all they can to make sure all San Franciscans have at least minimal adequate library service that, at most, would cost a tiny fraction of these costs.
Peter Warfield
Executive Director
Library Users Association