Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hey Mayor, How's That San Francisco Public Library Clean Up Going?

The last time EPJ reported on the San Francisco public library, in January, the SF mayor, Ed Lee, was touring the facility. At the time, the crimes at the library Lee singled out for increased penalties included indecent exposure, simple assault on library staff and patrons, possession of weapons, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, making disruptive noise and vandalism (SEE: San Francisco Public Library "Events")

The San Francisco Chronicle has just published something of a progress report. Barbara Surian writes for SFC:
For a city that was once known as "the city that knows how," the streets of San Francisco have become a shameful, unhealthy place. The news report of the unacceptable conditions at the San Francisco Public Library is just one example of the city's inability to tackle the pervasive problem of street people acting badly.

I'm purposefully avoiding the use of the label "homeless people" because it unfairly implies that homelessness equates to unacceptable public behavior. Many homeless people behave responsibly and do the best they can in spite of limited resources or opportunities.

Let me say that I am not some dainty, pampered woman who doesn't want to see or deal with unpleasantness. I am a nurse who worked at San Francisco General for four years and did public health nursing in the city before moving to Sonoma County. I am well aware of the mental and physical health issues and of the concomitant social complexities involved. However, having knowledge and compassion for those who may be ill, homeless, addicted or whatever does not mean I must excuse what is going on in the streets and in public places such as the library.

Last week, I had a need to use the public library and was appalled by what I saw: urine in the elevators, with one elevator unusable because a man had taken up residency with a stacked grocery cart and all; wild-eyed folks ranting, raving and threatening others; people sleeping on the floors, etc.

Is it really necessary to point out that this is a government sector problem? Just a few blocks from the library is the upscale Westfield Mall. The mall is always full and open to the public, yet unlike at the library, there is no one residing in the elevators or sleeping on the benches. It's time for the city of SF to get out of the library business.


  1. Barbara Surian's piece was a disorganized op-ed, not a Chronicle story written by a objective reporter. That said, the real update should be been: after extensive community conversations, San Francisco Public Library will be adopting stronger policies regarding unacceptable behavior by library patrons this summer.

    With regard to Mr. Wenzel's notion that this is a "government sector problem" and that government should "get out of the library business" -- please. Public libraries, most of them local government agencies, are critical to an informed populace and voting public. People from all walks of life can access for free information they want and need that they might not even be able to find elsewhere.

    How sad that Mr. Wenzel doesn't understand the value and importance of public libraries. Perhaps he should visit one.

    1. Bwa ha ha you troll! Informed populace? Is that what the fiction section is for? Is that why the government maintains records of the books we borrow? To make sure we are staying well informed? Is that what all those people are doing on Facebook when they are at the library? Keeping their friends "informed " on what they just read in a book at the library?

      If I have to pay for the library from a tax on my property, how in the hell does that equate to free?

      How in the hell can you be so brainwashed that you think if we don't have government libraries we won't have any libraries? Bow down and lick the hand that feeds you, and let posterity forget that you were ever our countryman.

      Jerry Wolfgang is that you?

    2. How sad that people still do not understand that it's 21st century outside, and there's that miraculous thing called the Internet which instantly provides you with way more information and entertainment than all public libraries together... and costs nothing to taxpayers, unlike these idiotic brick-and-mortar public relics.

    3. "Public libraries, ... are critical to an informed populace and voting public."

      This might be the funniest thing I've read in a while.

    4. Seriously, who needs to visit a public library these days? The internet provides more than any public library ever could.

      Locally (Ogden, Utah), we have a similar problem with homeless people hanging around the main branch of the library. I hate going there, unless I absolutely have to, and that's rare. Not to mention the fact that the librarians are hypervigilant about any (and I mean any) damage done to their books. The smallest mark or bent page can earn you a nice fine. No, thanks, I'll buy my own books.

  2. It's time for the city of SF to get out of business, period. The crony socialist hangout the city administration is is disgusting.