Introductions: San Francisco Public Library

Michael Lambert

How well do you know San Francisco Public Library? Very likely, not as well as you think.

How well do you know San Francisco Public Library? For example, did you know that the Library is the highest-rated City department in San Francisco? Did you know that, in addition to the Main Library in the Civic Center, there are 27 distinct branches located throughout the city, each tailoring their programs to meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve? Did you know that last fall, the Library took the bold step to eliminate overdue fines and restore borrowing privileges to thousands of patrons? If none of these facts rings a bell, then, in 2020, I invite you to get to know us a little better. I promise that you’ll be amazed by the vast array of resources and opportunities provided by San Francisco Public Library, all of which are free and open to the public.

You can start with More Than a Month, the Library’s celebration of African American history and culture. Beginning on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend and all throughout February, San Francisco Public Library will host more than 80 unique film screenings, literary events, interactive events for teens, hands-on activities for kids and music and craft classes for the whole family. Join us for the kick off at Richmond Branch Library on January 9, 6:30-7:30 p.m., for a community reading and discussion of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

And exhibitions—the Main Library has a robust exhibition program. During Black History Month we will present a series of exhibitions that touch upon the tobacco industry’s targeting of the African American community (Same Game Different Smokers: A Look at the Tobacco Industry’s Footprint on Black Lives and Black Lungs) to the difficult legacy of redevelopment in the City’s Bayview neighborhood (Made Land and Paper Streets). Making its San Francisco debut on February 15 in the Main Library’s Jewett Gallery is I'm Walkin' For My Freedom: The Selma March and Voting Rights, a photographic exhibition of 30 black and white digital pigment prints taken by pioneering civil rights photographer Matthew Herron during the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March in Spring, 1965.

With the largest book budget per capita among peer urban libraries, it’s no surprise that City residents rated San Francisco Public Library so highly for its collections. And residents are checking out books, movies, music and magazines more than ever. This year saw the highest circulation in Library history with 11.7 million items checked out.

If you are a fan of ebooks, the Library has you covered with free downloads made possible by an array of providers including Axis 360 and Hoopla. Your library card also grants you free access to Kanopy an award-winning video streaming service providing access to more than 30,000 independent and documentary films - titles of unique social and cultural value from The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Media Education Foundation, and thousands of independent filmmakers.

Last year, the Library hosted some 14,000 events. Our programming, classes and workshops cover virtually every topic at every learning level and, often, in multiple languages. From resume writing to financial planning to digital literacy to legal assistance to conversational French—if you want it, we’ve probably got it. I hope you will take a moment to explore our new website – and discover all of the incredible resources and opportunities for enrichment at your fingertips.

I want to end with a final invitation to join us for one of our biggest nights of the year on February 1. In partnership with the French Consulate in San Francisco, KQED, and SFMOMA, the Library is readying for the second year of the Night of Ideas, a free, festive, after-hours marathon of discussion, performances, music, art and dance.

Be part of an exciting evening, concurrently happening in more than 100 cities around the globe, to share ideas with urbanists, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, scholars, librarians, community organizers and residents.

In San Francisco, for just one night each year, the San Francisco Main Library becomes a place of philosophy, dialogue, discussion and entertainment. Speakers and participants will exchange ideas around the idea of “living on the edge.” Venues throughout the Main Library will allow different approaches to this theme and various means of expressions, from keynote speeches to panel discussions to more intimate dialogues. Music, art and performances will be interspersed in the program to energize participants and break social barriers.

We can’t wait to welcome you through our doors!

Michael Lambert

City Librarian