Sunday is libraries’ new fun day 

The prayers of San Francisco’s library advocates have finally been answered.

Seven San Francisco library branches will be open an extra day starting this year, restoring Sunday service in several neighborhoods and offering seven-day access in three of The City’s most remote communities. Along with San Francisco’s main downtown library, only seven of The City’s branch libraries previously had permanent Sunday hours.

Although all libraries are open Saturdays, library advocates have clamored for years to have more branches open on both weekend days. In June 2007, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi secured $455,000 within the 2006-07 fiscal year budget to expand Sunday hours, and this year’s openings represent the last of the branches slated to reinstate Sunday hours.

Library leaders lobbied for money in the 2008-09 budget to open the Noe Valley and Glen Park branches on Sundays; the Ortega and Bayview branches will now be open every day. Prompted by Mirkarimi, the Board of Supervisors has added an additional $335,573 to the library budget for additional days at the Golden Gate Valley, Presidio and Merced Branches, Deputy City Librarian Jill Bourne said.

"San Francisco’s greatness is interconnected to a number of services, including the quality of our public library system," Mirkarimi said.

When budget cuts have forced other city services to cut back, the library system has been able to expand. This is in part due to a

2 percent general fund set-aside first approved by voters in 1994 and renewed in 2007, spokeswoman Marcia Schneider said. When the economy worsens, locals tend to use the library more, she said.

Library circulation has risen from 7.3 million in 2004-05 to 8.3 million in 2007-08, according to library data.

"The reality is, libraries provide a foundation for people to self-educate, to be better citizens," Schneider said.

Locals embraced the news that their libraries will continue to expand.

The Bayview library branch has come to serve not only as a source of books and media, but as a community hub, particularly when Third Street was torn up to install light-rail, resident Jeffrey Bencher said.

"For so long, [our] library didn’t have hours that were completely accessible," said Gina Fromer, director of the Bayview YMCA branch. "Now, our kids go there every day for some activity — and if I’m a teen and I can go to a poetry reading, I’m not going to be on the street. It’s wonderful."

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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