Libraries to offer free passes 

San Francisco families will soon have the chance to check out passes from libraries that will provide free entry into The City’s prized museums and other attractions under a pilot program starting this month.

The Check Out San Francisco Family Pass program will allow a San Francisco Public Library card holder with children to check out a pass for one of 18 attractions. That pass allows for one free entry for the family into the cultural institution.

Twenty-five branch libraries will have one free family pass per attraction each week — the main library will have two — and the pass can be obtained using a library card. The family can use that pass for the specified attraction any time within one week of checking it out. A pass, which must be checked out in person, is good for up to two adults who must be accompanied by at least one and up to four children under the age of 18.

The Department of Children, Youth and their Families created the program, which will be administered by the San Francisco Public Library, after budget cuts forced the elimination of family “appreciation” events held on two days each year, which included free access to attractions. With the cut, the department was told to figure out something else to do. Also, some attractions were overwhelmed by the rush of visitors on those days.

“[Mayor Gavin Newsom] put this as a priority to make sure families in San Francisco will continue to be appreciated by The City,” said Maria Su, director of the Department of Children, Youth and their Families. The program, she said, is cost-neutral.

The program is expected to bring more families to the attractions, especially during the recession, and build on the success of the popular family events.

The pilot program, which is expected to launch the week of April 11 and run until the end of December, is modeled after similar programs in Minneapolis and Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Our program is going to be larger than anybody’s, with more attractions [and] available at more libraries,” said Jill Fox, spokeswoman for the Department of Children, Youth and their Families.

The program comes at little cost to The City. The attractions are providing the free entry. In return, they receive the free publicity and will likely attract those who otherwise would not visit the location. Institutions offering free days, usually during a weekday, already will continue to do so, in addition to participating in the pilot program.

In October, those involved are expected to determine if the program should continue and perhaps expand to include others, such as seniors.

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