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10 Awesome Educational Services Offered by the San Francisco Public Library

Updated on September 8, 2010

SFPL Main Library Branch

Main Branch SFPL:
100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

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This six-story main branch of the library is one of the best place to take advantage of SFPL's services.

I love libraries. I can spend hours looking at the many different books that there are to read. There aren’t too many libraries that I don’t like since I enjoy reading almost anything. However, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) system is a really special thing. That’s because it doesn’t just offer buildings with books in them. It offers tons of classes, lectures, events and services that make it a much more useful tool than many other library systems throughout the nation.

Here’s a look at ten of the most helpful educational services offered by SFPL:

1.     Public walks around San Francisco. This is by far my favorite thing that San Francisco’s public library system offers. They do this by sponsoring City Guides, which was launched in the 1970’s. Volunteers from this group give guided tours around different neighborhoods and landmarks in the city. Anyone can attend for free (by donation, if you want to contribute). There are tours given daily. It’s an awesome way to learn more about the city whether you’re a visitor or you live here. I’ve taken tours of the city’s public spaces, the history of local murals and some of the city’s free museums. The volunteers who led these tours provided a wealth of information. It’s one of the best ways I’ve ever learned about the city.

2.     Poetry readings and literature readings. Several different branches of the San Francisco Public Library offer poetry readings and other literature readings on a regular basis. The ones that I think are most interesting and educational are the ones at the North Beach Library branch since these are often poetry readings by the old Beat poets who were here during the literature heyday of this city. Another favorite is the readings of fairly new release books. These typically take place in the basement of the main library.

3.     Special exhibits. There are two different SFPL galleries located in the main library. These have special art exhibits on all sorts of different topics. The first is the Skylight Gallery, which is located on the 6th floor. The other is the Jewett library, which is located on the bottom floor of this library. There are also online exhibits where you can learn more through art. These exhibits are often about culturally important topics or movements.

4.     Computer classes. It is possible to get a free education in basic computing by attending the classes and courses offered through SFPL’s various branches. Some of the different types of classes that are offered include Jobs and Resources on the Internet and Mouse and Keyboard Lessons. This is a great way for adults without computer skills to get a leg up, which is really important right now when so many people are looking for work.

5.     Storytimes, school programs and tutoring help. There are many, many different educational and entertainment services for kids through SFPL. Several branches offer storytime, which is a great way to help instill a love of reading in your kids. Special types of storytime include bilingual storytime at and Baby Rhyme Time. There is also tutoring help for all students. Times and details vary from branch to branch.

6.     Films and discussions. There are many different films and discussion events held at the library especially at the main library location. Some of these are practical learning discussion such as “how to prepare for a disaster”. Others are just general learning topics. For example, I saw a film screening there of a documentary about historic architecture in the city. I saw another one about green design. A discussion followed each of these.

7.     Reader’s corner. One of my favorite services that the SFPL offers through its website is its reader’s corner. It provides link to different book clubs and reading programs. It also offers list of book suggestions and new titles. Basically, it’s a really terrific resource for people who want information about books and what others might be reading.

8.     Articles and databases. Another useful tool online that I love is the “articles and databases” link that SFPL offers. You do have to be a member of the library to take advantage of this section of the site. Of course, joining the library is free and open to SF residents. This web section gives you access to tons of articles from magazines and other resources. These are subscription-based services that normally you’d have to pay to access but it’s totally free with your SFPL membership. It’s really great for writing research as well as business research.

9.     Small Business Center. The main library branch has a small business center that can be really useful to anyone who owns or is interested in starting a small business in San Francisco. There is access to a lot of different materials here. But it’s not just that. You can also get one-on-one help for your business. SCORE offers that help at the library once a week by appointment. For those people who don’t own or want a small business there’s also a job and careers center that might be helpful.

10. Environmental Center. This is also located at the main library branch. As the name suggests, it’s a center where you can go to get information about environmental issues. It has books and magazines that are focused on major environmental issues. There is a permanent display of the personal copies of Wallace Stegner’s books. (He was a writer, historian and environmentalist.)


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