On a colorful playmat, toddlers listen and watch with fascinated eyes and occasional giggles as a librarian reads a storybook in a silly voice. Nearby, teenage students sit in groups at large worktables, discussing the new Adele album and poring over thick textbooks. Some senior citizens stroll through the aisles beside them, chatting wholeheartedly while picking through magazine displays.
They are at the Excelsior Branch Library, a “heavily used” and “deeply beloved” center for informative classes, cultural programs, community bonding and of course, books.
When you enter the cream-colored library building, you are welcomed by a bulletin board that details community events, as well as a colorful display of new books and a spacious study area with workbenches and computers.
To the right, you can find movies, music and books in languages like Chinese and Spanish. To the left, there is a reference desk as well as audiobooks, folk and fairy tales and a special section of holiday books. As you move further into the library, there is a large children’s area and a cozy teen section.
There are programs for a variety of interests at the Excelsior Branch Library. Young children can participate in events like Toddler Tales and Playtime and Preschool Storytime.
There are courses like Lego Engineering Fundamentals, Make Time for Art and Girls Who Code for an older audience. The Library also offers aid to families by providing free flu shots to those in need and holding Parents for Public Schools Office Hours that help enroll children in San Francisco Unified School District schools.
The staff speak English, Chinese and Spanish, according to head librarian Ramses Escobedo.
Reference librarian Daniela Yew stressed the importance of public libraries through a story about a family that visited Excelsior for the first time this summer.
“They had just moved to San Francisco from the Philippines and said that they’d walked past several times before they had built up enough courage to come inside,”
Yew said. “They all got cards and within a week they became regular visitors to our branch, participating in library programs and even volunteering. I think this is a great example of the benefit of public libraries to the community.”
Frequent library patron Jennifer Calderon said that the Excelsior Library is a valuable resource for the neighborhood.
“There is a real sense of community here, one that you probably wouldn’t expect to see at a library,” Calderon said. “The atmosphere is very nice, and the staff are on hand to help anyone as needed. I always come when I need a book or a place to work away from the noise at home, and it’s my personal favorite library.”
The Library has no issues with the number of patrons visiting on a daily basis, according to Escobedo.
“The library is heavily used,” Escobedo said. “In the morning, seniors come to chat and read the newspaper and throughout the day, parents bring their kids. The busiest hours are usually from three to five, when students get out of school. We are fortunate to have such diverse and dynamic clientele. There is something going on everyday!”
This diverse clientele especially benefits from the Excelsior Branch Library, as it is the only library besides the Main Library that has a Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog collection, according to Yew.
“This reflects the multicultural nature of the Excelsior District and the Library’s mission to make everybody feel welcome at the library,” Yew said.
The Excelsior Library has developed especially strong bonds with the neighboring community schools and groups, according to the San Francisco Public Library Chief of Community Programs and Partnerships Michelle Jeffers.
“Excelsior is deeply beloved by its neighborhood community,” Jeffers said. “It is a big partner in participating in neighborhood events such as the Excelsior Festival and Sunday Streets. At the recent Sunday Streets-Excelsior Festival in the summer, the library was a prominent anchor for activities on Mission street, with hula hooping, prize wheels, giveaways and more happening in front of the library.”
In 2005, the Library reopened after a full renovation with a celebratory parade, according to Jeffers. In 2013, community members worked on a special beautification project of its exterior. They added a planter, artwork and a seating area to the Library.
“Because the branch was so recently renovated and then had its exterior beautified by the neighborhood, there are no current plans for further improvements at this time,” Jeffers said.
The Excelsior Library, located at 4400 Mission St. For more information, visit www.sfpl.org.