Charter Amendment Seeks to Keep San Francisco Public Library Funding Intact | The F

As the San Francisco Public Library’s preservation fund expires next year, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí on Monday announced a charter amendment that would renew the institution’s vital budget source.

If approved by the oversight board later this summer, the legislation will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The preservation fund was established in 1994 by the nonprofit organization Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Prior to the fund’s creation, the library system faced years of budget cuts, paltry book budgets and reduced opening hours.

The nonprofit’s 1994 ballot proposal, which provided funds for the library through a property tax assessment, ensured consistent and designated funding, and the measure passed with more than 70% of the votes.

The funds come from a base budget equivalent to less than 2% of the city’s overall budget, plus a property tax set aside for 0.025 cents for every $100 of property assessment.

“Our libraries are an essential part of the fabric of San Francisco, providing needed services for seniors, families and all San Franciscans who love to learn,” said Safaí, who represents District 11. Library preservation is critical to protecting this community resource for future generations, and I am grateful for Mayor Breed’s leadership and the support of the community and his colleagues in this effort.

The Library Preservation Fund is the library’s largest budget source, measuring 95% of its fiscal year 2022 budget of $171.2 million.

Since its adoption in 1994, the Preservation Fund has played a crucial role in maintaining the operations of the Main Library and its 27 branches. The library has expanded its hours, collections, and programs, while engaging in renovation and capital construction projects across the system.

These projects include setting aside funds for a $35 million renovation of the Chinatown branch library. Improvements include restoring the Great Reading Room, improving the overall design and layout of the building, and creating facilities for children and teenagers.

$25 million is also being allocated to renovate the Mission branch library, which will add more public restrooms, increase flexibility of use and space, and maintain multilingual collections and services, among other goals.

Michael Lambert, the city librarian, said the support from Breed and Safaí as well as voters from previous elections “is testament to the confidence that San Franciscans have in our institution.”

While Lambert has always viewed the library as a communal resource, the past two and a half years have amplified his perception of these spaces as hubs of learning.

Throughout the pandemic, libraries in San Francisco have become places where students can learn remotely. Recreationally, library staff had to rethink how they conducted programs, such as story hours and art and drawing workshops, in virtual spaces.

As the library approaches pre-COVID operating levels, Lambert said he doesn’t want to throw away the lessons learned during the pandemic because they taught him and his staff how to reach communities. alternatively and creatively.

Lambert says the preservation fund “was a game-changer” for the library. Library Journal, an American trade publication, named SFPL its “Library of the Year” in 2018.

Last renewed in 2007 with the support of 74% of San Francisco voters, the preservation fund is set to expire June 30, 2023. The revised amendment extends the fund for 25 years through June 2048, an increase from to its current term of 15 years. .

The charter amendment also sets a new standard for weekly hours of service, ensuring library doors are open 1,400 hours per week across the system, a 16% increase from the current baseline.

“The fact that not only are we about to renew this fund, but we are going to extend it longer this time. It really secures the future of our institution,” Lambert said.

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