Noe Valley Voice November 1999

Library Branch Gets Two More Hours
But Books May Be What Patrons Really Want

By Karen Topakian

The San Francisco Public Library has proposed adding Saturday morning hours at the Noe Valley ­ Sally Brunn Library. If the change goes through, the branch at 451 Jersey Street will be open on Saturdays at 10 a.m. instead of noon. The library will close at 6 p.m. as usual.

"I think the neighborhood will be in favor of that," says Roberta Greifer, head librarian at the branch.

And she's probably right. Most patrons, especially working parents, might like to browse earlier in the weekend. (The Noe Valley Library is closed on Sunday.)

Still, the gift of extra hours seems a bit odd, considering its origin.

According to Donna Corbeil, chief of branches for the library, the decision to expand Saturday hours was prompted by a "strong interest from the community." That interest was demonstrated, she said, through recent surveys of branch patrons and a series of community meetings mandated by Proposition E.

Prop. E, the Library Preservation Act passed by the voters in 1994, increased funding for the city's branch libraries by some 47 percent. It also restored hours to previous levels. In addition, the measure required the city to hold a public hearing on hours at each branch every five years.

The meeting for the Noe Valley branch was held Sept. 23 at the Noe Valley Ministry. However, only two community members showed up, and neither was from Noe Valley. (In fact, when this reporter walked in, I was greeted with, "Oh, good, are you a resident of Noe Valley?" I said yes I was, but I was wearing my Voice hat.)

The two patrons who were there urged the library to stay open seven days a week, and add more evening hours. They also requested a larger book budget to fill holes in the collection. "Why are there empty shelves in my branch when we're in a time of plenty?" asked Marti Kashuba, a regular at the Bernal Heights branch.

Later, when the Voice talked to librarian Greifer about the poor attendance, she said she was not surprised. The Noe Valley Library had received less than a week's notice. "I happened to be out of town, but the community didn't know about the meeting because we got the flyers only a few days before. We also didn't get any signs to post. I was very upset about it. I would have liked to have gone too," Greifer said.

If Noe Valley residents had attended the meeting, would they have asked for different hours? Said Greifer, "Since Prop. E was implemented, I haven't heard many comments on the hours." Carol Small, Noe Valley's children's librarian since 1990, said she hears more requests for new adult books and videos than for a change in hours. "I don't get too many complaints in Children's," she added. "I get appreciative comments."

And according to the results of the Library's own survey, conducted this past July and August, Noe Valley patrons do put books at the top of their list.

Of the 73 people who responded to a clipboard survey at the branch, most said they preferred more books to more hours. For the record, they also said they preferred weekday evening hours to weekday morning hours, and Saturday afternoon hours to Saturday morning ones. These results were consistent with a random citywide telephone survey the S.F. Public Library conducted during the week of May 15.

But right now, books don't seem to be on the table.

What is up for review is the Library's long-range plan, last redone in 1991. The seven main "directions," or goals, of the new Strategic Plan were outlined at that same September meeting. They are (take a breath): "To meet the diverse needs of our neighborhoods and develop a shared city vision; provide a broad variety of lifelong learning opportunities; support information resources for business and individual entrepreneurs; provide education and recreational services and resources for our youth; work towards providing barrier-free access to all library services, including materials in major language and alternative formats; provide information about community services and resources; and work towards equitable access to its resources for all residents at the access point of their choice."

All these issues -- but particularly the new hours for Noe Valley and other local branches (Mission and Eureka Valley each stand to lose one hour) -- will be on the agenda at the Library Commission's month-ly meeting Nov. 3. Public comment can also be made at a special hearing on Nov. 18. Both meetings start at 5:30 and are held in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library.

Branch Chief Donna Corbeil says the commission will make a final decision at its regular (first) Tuesday meeting, Dec. 7. Changes will take effect on Jan. 3, 2000.

The Library will accept written and verbal comments on the hours, etc., through Nov. 30. You can e-mail or call the City Librarian's Office at 557-4236. Or write the San Francisco Library Commission, 100 Larkin St., Sixth Floor, S.F., CA 94102; fax 557-4240.

By the way, the clipboard survey at the Noe Valley Branch also revealed some interesting demographic statistics. According to the survey, most library patrons are women (77%), and more than half do not have children (54%). The largest portion (33%) fall into the 30 to 39 age bracket. Noe Valley patrons are likely to be white (74%) and highly educated (46% have done postgraduate work). Also, 100% speak English.

So we probably can write, too. Let's get those comments to City Hall.

Current hours at the Noe Valley Library are Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 1 to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.