Why I Live at the SFPL

No, I don’t live at the San Francisco Public Library. That is just a take-off on the famous Eudora Welty short story, Why I Live at the P.O.  I just love the library. My office is within walking distance from the Main Branch, so I consider it to be my place.


This is a spectacular building with floors and floors of books, videos, music and collections I cannot begin to describe. I like to read…and I like to read books…those things with a cover and many pages.  I don’t want a kindle and I don’t want to read books on my iphone…althought the iphone may be the greatest invention in my life time, I just don’t want to read novels on it.

I read WAY too many books to be able to buy them any longer, so I order them from the SFPL. Yes, there is guilt, but I addressed that by becoming a member and donating regularly to Friends of the Library. What I like to do is read the New York Times Book Review, listen to Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Fresh Air, or get  my friends’ recommendations and order online from the SFPL whatever book sounds interesting. Here is the amazing thing: the SFPL always has any book I want to read…even if it was just published last week…or if it is some tiny publisher, or a lesbian novelist from Podunk…they will have it! I have my own little HOLD section at the Main Branch and receive email notices on a regular basis telling me to come and pick up my book. That is a thrill. One of the advantages of borrowing books from the library is that I can try them out without having to buy.  I will check out anything that sounds vaguely interesting and if I can’t get into it by page 50 or so I bid a fond farewell and move on to something else.

Also, since I have a huge itunes library of music, from time to time I will order a CD and download it to my library…that is so cool. When you go into the Main Branch’s media room you will find all kinds of people listening to music and watching movies. You can just browse, and eventually you will find something you really like. Or, you can just search online for what you already like.

The library is a sacred institution to me and always has been.  My first official job in high school (not including babysitting and summertime strawberry and lemon picking) was as a page in the Moorpark (Ventura County) public library…population: about 2000.  It was Librarian Mrs. Huckeba who recruited me (and also recommended a novel about a teenage girl who plays tennis!). I shelved books and examined them closely. I memorized them. I also worked in the Bookmobile, which went to the outskirts of town where mostly Latino kids came in and discovered books they could take home for the first time. The library taught me that something called public includes everybody…and has something for everyone.

The SFPL is also THE public place where anyone can go just to be somewhere. When I was 20 years old I spend the summer in New York City. During the first couple of weeks I spent many hours in the NYPL…a home away from home… just to get a footing and be somewhere. It was there, reading the newspaper, that I found my summer job in NYC working for an employment agency.  The SFPL is a home for everyone…and a home to the homeless of SF. Fortunately, there is a social worker at the main branch, as well as a system that offers bathrooms, showers and other services that you wouldn’t imagine a library would offer. Go SFPL!

And the best thing of all: it is free. Support your public library.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Melinda Basker
    Nov 15, 2014 @ 22:32:18

    Very nice. Libraries are great.






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