La librarie ou la bibliothèque?

One trend I have consistently seen on the bus and in the tunnels is a large number of people reading books with “SF Public Library” stamped on them.   And these public books do not seem to discriminate, finding themselves in the hands of hipsters, suits, and the guy wearing the pith helmet on the back of the 6 Parnassus.

Now I’m generally a buyer of books.  I like supporting writers and having the option of taking my sweet time reading something, and underlying or highlighting passages (that I’ll probably never go back and read anyway).  But I’ve always wondered just how easy it would be to utilize SF’s public library system and what it would have to offer.  After a brief visit today, the answers are 1) really easy, and 2) quite a bit.

I went to the main branch of the library today, got a library card and found and checked out a book in about 30 minutes.  The book was a little hard to find.  The online card catalog (that you can access online from anywhere) said it was on the fourth floor, but when I got to the fourth floor, a little sticker told me that the section of the Dewey decimal system in which I was interested was actually on the fifth floor.  And the collection is so large, you have to make sure you’re in the right section.  Even on the fifth floor, the number beginning “340.023” could actually be in several different places depending on subject matter.

And the staff was incredibly helpful and friendly to this newbie, which is kind of surprising given that a large percentage of their patrons at this location are trying to live there.  Although I did forget to ask when I had to return my book.

But that’s actually no problem since you can actually access your library account online, and renew your books without having to set foot in the library.   And even if you wanted to do so, the main branch is open until 8 pm Tuesday-Thursday.  And from my count, they have 19 different branches around the city.  Plus you get your choice of really cool library cards.  Here’s the one I chose, apparently designed by Chloe, who is currently considering her future educational options:

And while having too many people buy War and Peace is probably the world’s least vexing environmental problem at the moment, the fact that hundreds of people could enjoy the same book over and over without killing any more trees does resonate with some, e.g., me.

So thanks SF public library, I’ll be back for sure!

P.S.  It’s also quite a pretty building.  And, on behalf of your mother, take some hand sanitizer with you.