Ingram Blog

Library Spotlight: San Francisco Public Library

We reached out to Shelley Sorenson, Technical Services Manager, San Francisco Public Library to find out what makes their library program so unique and successful.

Q: Do you have a unique program or service that has been successful in your community?

One program that I’m really proud of is our service to Youth in Custody. We bring excellent library services and dedicated librarians to two facilities. The Juvenile Justice Center houses Youth awaiting trial; and the Log Cabin Ranch houses teens incarcerated for about one year, with supportive services. Both facilities offer regular library visits, readers’ advisory, reference, programming, and a collection of quality new materials hand-picked for the population. Youth participants frequently report that they read more books while in custody than in their everyday life, and many report that they finished their first book ever while in custody. Their enthusiasm for reading often leads to a significant improvement in their reading level and to an interest in self-directed learning that continues after their release. Residents at both facilities are encouraged to sign up for library cards so they can continue being library users after their release.

Q: What do you wish your patrons knew that your library offers?

Even though eBook and eMedia circulation is increasing rapidly in San Francisco, there are so many community members that don’t know they can borrow eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMusic, etc. for free from the Library! I’m always surprised at the number of people I meet who still purchase eBooks on Amazon, for example. In addition, we have so many awesome databases offering huge amounts of information that I think more patrons would find really useful. The process of getting the word out is time- and staff-intensive and hinges on each staff member having ample knowledge about what is in our arsenal, which is difficult to accomplish when they have so many responsibilities and our resources are so vast!

Q: Where do you see librarianship in 10 years?

Public libraries are trying to remain relevant in this time of rapid change. Some of the best minds are continually proposing new ways that libraries can be, not only helpful, but indispensable to the community. I see libraries continuing in that direction – places where people can hang out, bring their families, learn how to make things, be safe, finds jobs, get passports, educate themselves, be entertained, and read! I don’t believe people are going to give up reading and books anytime soon!

Q: What’s your proudest moment as a librarian?

I have been a librarian for 34 years, so my proud moments have mostly merged together! For the first 29 years I was a children’s librarian and experienced many satisfying interactions with children and their families, who have been most appreciative of story times, homework help, readers’ advisory, etc. In my past 5 years as Technical Services Manager I have been surprised to experience pride when a contract I have worked on for months (and yes, in San Francisco, sometimes over a year!) gives birth to an actual resource that brings great happiness to our patrons. One example of this was the addition of hooplaTM to our electronic media collections – our patrons love the service and I feel like a proud mama!

I’ve also felt very proud this past year to bring my love of books and my love of music together in my life as a private citizen by co-hosting a monthly podcast called the Rock n Roll Librarian. I read a book about a musician or band and talk about it with the host, on air, while spinning some tunes. So much fun! You can find it here, along with the other great shows about music, culture, and technology and how they have influenced each other.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever gotten in your book drop?

When I worked at one of our busiest branches, we did get a dead mouse or two in our book drop. We were never quite sure whether they went there on their own to die, or whether someone actually dropped them in! And there was something even more heinous once, which I will not discuss here.

Q: Please finish this sentence: A library is … a home away from home. I’ve loved libraries since I was a kid and have always felt very comfortable in them. Books, newspapers, magazines, internet access, computers, bathrooms, comfortable furniture, and sometimes cafes! What’s not to love?

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