The Potrero Branch Library Offers More Than Books

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Located at 1616 20th street, the Potrero Branch library offers books, films, and music – digital and compact discs – suitable for all ages and sweeping views of San Francisco.  The facility also serves as a public commons, hosting events, classes, and access to free or low-cost museum passes.

“The library stands out as a totally free community space in the City. Everyone is welcome to come in and enjoy a safe space to learn and explore their own individual passions and interests.  We don’t need an income verification, you don’t need to purchase anything, we are open for all, every day of the week.” said Genevieve Feldman, Branch Manager and Children’s Librarian. 

A quiet respite from the concrete jungle, the floor to ceiling windows and Bay views make the Hill’s branch especially peaceful. Patrons come to work remotely using the free WiFi, gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge while flipping through a magazine, or bring their kids for one of the weekly children’s book readings.

The Branch participates in the city-wide Discover and Go program, which enables library card holders who are San Francisco residents to get free or low-cost tickets to museums, theatres, and other cultural attractions. Tickets are accessible through the library’s website.

Weekly classes and activities focus on the arts, social issues, activism and the environment. Events have included workshops on cooking and crafting, such as how to make Algerian desserts, homemade salsa, and Native American bracelets. Courses in how to use the Internet, word processing, and scholastic test preparation are regularly held. 

Ongoing programs include activities for babies and toddlers, such as Saturday Snacktivity – with healthy snacks provided by The Good Life Grocery – Puppydog Tales – a dog-child bonding activity where children read to dogs, sponsored by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – and Movie and a Meal. Film nights are always family friendly; a number of child-free adults incorporate them into their routine.

“Here at Potrero many of our library patrons are regulars, so I’ve gotten to know them over time, learning more about each patron as an individual, and really making a connection with the community” said Feldman.

A meeting room is available for community members for free.  Users include a women’s group, book clubs, school assemblies, and businesses.

Feldman has worked as a librarian for 11 years, been the branch manager for two years, and finds joy in “helping library patrons find that next book or film that will speak to them, or helping them find the book that gives answers to all their questions.”

Doreen Horstin, Children’s Services Librarian, has been at the branch for more than five years, and has worked with the San Francisco Public Library in excess of 12 years. She’s as passionate about reading as she is about her job. “Books are a window into other worlds and other points of view. Every time we read a book, our world gets bigger.” she said.

According to Horstin, “Potrero Hill is a community of readers”. In addition to the usual suspects – fiction and do-it-yourself primers – politics, travel, and language learning resources have been in heavy demand over the past year. 

“Where else can you check out a museum pass, get the newest bestselling book, download the latest blockbuster directly to you tablet, learn a new craft, or practice early literacy skills with your toddler all in the same space and for free?” said Feldman.

The branch will host The Potrero Hill Artists 61st Annual Artist’s Exhibition from May 4 through July 26th, 2019. San Francisco’s oldest running art exhibition, it’s previously featured photography, painting, sculpture, drawing, pottery, collage, fiberworks, and more.