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Library HOPE (Hours of Operation Public Engagement) Project

San Francisco Public Library, CA

Innovation Summary

San Francisco Public Library developed a year-long community engagement process to assess the current operating hours for its 28 public libraries that included multilingual public hearings and in-person, online and telephone surveys and established a platform for ensuring equity of library service and support for expansion of library hours citywide.

Problem Statement

San Francisco Public Library's funding initiative, renewed by voters in 2007, requires the Library to assess its hours of operation every five years with a public hearing process. The Library's challenge was to engage as great a possible pool of library users and non-users to ensure that any future decisions around library operations, services and open hours were sound and addressed diverse community needs. A partnership with the San Francisco Controllers Office; contracting with a professional survey firm; and gaining support from the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs enabled SFPL to produce a robust and far-reaching operating hours review process that secured widespread community support and engagement around library services and hours. The hours review process offered SFPL additional feedback on library services beyond operating hours. It also engaged non-library users about their reasons for not visiting a San Francisco library over the past two years. The comprehensive process paved the way for expanding hours at libraries citywide. It also led to the creation of a thoroughly evaluated baseline for operating hours at SFPL that helps to streamline operations, improve consistency and equity in hours in all SF neighborhoods, and better serve public expectations for library operations and services.


Among the key elements of the hours of operation public engagement project were: • Public hearings at 11 branch libraries, representing each of the 11 San Francisco supervisorial districts. To ensure the greatest possibly diversity, translators provided by the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs provided on site language translation at each hearing in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and, as needed, Russian. In addition, closed captioning and American Sign Language translation were also provided for deaf and hard of hearing members of the public. • In-person, scientifically unbiased public intake surveys undertaken over four weeks at every public library in San Francisco. These surveys were provided in five languages and resulted in 2,486 public responses, more than twice the number of survey results anticipated. • Online survey of San Francisco Public Library staff, resulting in a 60+ percent response rate. • Engagement of staff in evaluating current hours and appropriate staffing levels for expansion proposals. • Online survey of other San Francisco Public Library users who self-selected to take the survey, resulting in almost 500 completed surveys returned. • Telephone survey of 302 San Francisco residents who had not visited a library in the past two years. • Partnership with San Francisco Controllers Office for in-depth data analysis of current library hours, visits, circulation and usage, information that was critical in determining how any expansion of hours should be designated.


The process allowed San Francisco Public Library to reflect on its strengths (more than 73 percent of survey respondents’ ranked library hours as good or very good at meeting their needs) while also understanding public interest in expanded hours (more than 64 percent of survey respondents would use the library more if it were open more hours). The process also helped to identify areas of greatest need for more hours and illustrated inequity in hours of operation geographically. The tremendous amount of public input received led to clear mandates that SFPL needed to avoid any reduction in service (significant concern for 64 percent of respondents) and expand its operating hours as budgets allowed. Thanks to the significant level of neighborhood and community diversity participation in the project, SFPL ensured that a balanced cross section of users (and non-users) were heard and can apply the project's findings citywide to improve library service throughout San Francisco. To date, SFPL has received Library Commission approval for a significant expansion of hours that would add approximately $1 million to the Library’s budget; open libraries 56 more hours per week; bring all libraries in San Francisco to a tiered baseline of 45, 50, 55 & 60 hours per week; and establish 7-day-per-week service at two-thirds of the city’s libraries by offering 5 additional days of service. This project will ensure equity of library service citywide and establish a consistent level of hours for all branches.