Last Updated: Mar 05, 2021     Views: 3462



What is SFPL To Go?

SFPL To Go is a service that safely delivers requested library materials to patrons at the library front door.

SFPL To Go is San Francisco Public Library’s version of “curbside pick-up” that we’ve seen successfully rolled out by restaurants, retail and other libraries in the region. Our service model is a contact-free front door service where patrons can queue up outside our buildings to pick up their requested books at the library entrance.This service is currently available at the Main Library and select branch libraries and bookmobiles. Please check back for updates on other locations opening soon.

If you have items on the hold shelf or holds wait lists, you will be notified by the Library on your next steps. These could be to pick up your long-awaited items, to cancel items you do not want any more or to move items to an open (or soon-to-open) library. You may now request materials from any open Library location for pickup.

How does SFPL To Go holds work?

SFPL To Go allows patrons to safely pick up library materials they have placed on hold at the library front door.

SFPL To Go is just like getting your holds before the pandemic, except for a few key differences. Patrons will receive their holds at the front door of their library.

Only staff will be allowed inside the buildings for safety reasons.

We will email, mail or call you when your items are ready to be picked up.

When you come to the library, you will wait in a physically distanced line, at least 6 feet apart.  Let library staff know your last name and the last 3 digits of your library card number. We recommend that you bring your library card, just in case you don’t remember. Staff will get your item(s) and set them on a table for you to pick up, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance with you.

Your hold will remain on the hold shelf for 10 days. The initial checkout period will be for 21 days. Renewals will be for 21 days.

Who can use SFPL To Go?

SFPL To Go is a service for anyone with a library card that allows for checkout of physical materials.

Anyone with a full access, welcome or eCard secured since the library closed on 3/13/2020 can use SFPL To Go. Just search for what you want on the Library’s website and request it for pick-up at an open (or soon-to-open) library. You will receive a notice via email, USPS mail or on the phone that you have materials that are ready to pick up.

What are the hours and locations for SFPL To Go holds pick-up?

Hours at Main and other branch libraries are different.

The Main Library will be open 7 days a week for SFPL To Go. Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Sunday 12–5:30 p.m.

Chinatown, Ortega and Visitacion Valley are open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Anza, Bayview, Eureka Valley, Excelsior, Marina, Merced and Mission Bay and Park are open Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

You can find library addresses at Our Locations.

See the Bookmobile SFPL To Go times and locations.

When will SFPL To Go holds be at my library?

It’s a bit complicated and we appreciate your ongoing patience.

To be honest, it may take a little while. There is a backlog of holds to process and deliver, including: those on the holds shelf when the order to Shelter in Place went into effect in March 2020; holds on new items received during closure and holds placed on books and other materials during closure. Library staff will need to find these items on the shelves and prepare them for retrieval. Plus, we have holds on materials being placed as we start SFPL To Go.

All this is to say that we cannot tell you exactly when your item(s) will be ready for pick-up. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding while we work through the patron requests before we get to yours. Thank you!

Why aren’t my holds pre-checked out?

We wanted to let you know that we have simplified our contact-free check-out process to resolve some issues that have caused confusion.

Instead of pre-checking out materials before you arrive, we will check out materials to you once you arrive to pick them up. This is a return to the way holds were processed before the library closed in March 2020.

When your holds are ready to pick up, you will receive an email, phone call or print notice from us and the items will be “Ready for Pick Up” in your library record.

We will continue to handle all library materials in the safest way possible. We hope this slight change will make it even easier for you to use SFPL To Go and manage your library holds and check-outs.

Why isn’t my neighborhood library open?

We are sorry that your branch library is not open at this time. While developing our phased plan for resuming library service, we considered the following:

  • Equity – prioritizing locations in the City with higher percentages of the population shown to be in vulnerable categories and most in need of library services due to socioeconomic or linguistic factors.
  • Geographic distribution throughout the City – each district will eventually have an SFPL To Go location.
  • Architecture –  the physical layouts of each location need to have adequate space to allow for the public to pick up their materials and enable the staff to work together safely while adhering to social distancing.

Additionally, the biggest constraint to reopening our library system is the lack of staffing capacity. While many of the Library's staff are deployed as disaster Service Workers (DSW). Approximately 41% of the Library’s workforce is deployed as Disaster Service Workers (DSW) performing myriad roles to support the City’s emergency response.

We recognize any plan to reopen some neighborhood libraries and leave others closed will leave gaps in coverage for providing library services to our residents. We also sympathize with our patrons who are being severely impacted by the cuts to public transit, which we recognize makes traveling to another branch more challenging. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we strive to resume library operations as expeditiously as we can across the maximum number of locations possible. 

Can I  donate books to  the library during COVID-19?   

Please do not bring your used books to donate to the Library or leave them at the doors of the branches. Book donations can only be taken by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library at its donation center in Potrero Hill. The Friends' Donation Center is open for book donations in a limited capacity and by appointment. Please visit the Friends of the Library website for updates.

Holds and Reserved Materials

How will I know when my holds are ready? 

We’ll let you know when your item(s) are ready at an SFPL To Go location via email, phone or mail based upon your notice preference in your library account.

This is a good time to update your account to email notice preference if you can! With email notices, you will receive the most robust notices and communications possible from the library. If you are not receiving notices, there might be an issue with your account; you can call 415-557-4400 or email for assistance from library staff.

Why are my holds not ready at the same time? 

Due to current public health and safety concerns, we currently have minimal staffing in our buildings and we simply are not able to process all the accumulated holds at one time. We are working as fast as we safely can to get you all your requested library materials. We appreciate your patience and understanding! 

Why are holds so slow to fill? My item is available on the shelf. 

Due to current public health and safety concerns, we currently have minimal staffing in our buildings and we simply are not able to process all the accumulated holds at one time. We are working as fast as we safely can to get you all your requested library materials. We appreciate your patience and understanding! 

I have a hold on a book that is on the shelf. Why isn’t it ready for pick-up?

There are a few reasons your hold isn’t ready. Other patrons may be waiting for it ahead of you. Your book may only be at a closed library and we are not able to get it for you. We are working as fast as we can. We will notify you when your hold is ready.

Returning Materials

How do I return library items? When do bookdrops open?

Bookdrops are open again, at open libraries!

Bookdrops will be open during public service hours* at the Main Library and all open SFPL To Go branch library locations. Any fees incurred since March 13 will be waived when your materials are returned.

If SFPL To Go operations are suspended due to an air quality incident, bookdrops will remain open during their regularly scheduled SFPL To Go hours. In the event of a heat wave or extreme air quality incident, bookdrops will be open at air respite locations that also serve as SFPL To Go locations (Main Library and Mission Bay).

Bookdrops will also be accepting LINK+ and Interlibrary Loan (ILL) materials at this time. Yes, we know that this is a bit unusual; we figured it would be best to let you return all your library materials. Again, any fees assessed since March 13 will be waived when LINK+ and ILL items are returned.

I returned my books yesterday. Why aren’t they checked in yet?

For the safety of staff and the public, we will quarantine all returned materials for 96 hours before we check them in. We will take extra care to make sure they are checked in after quarantine and removed from your library account. Any fees since March 13 will be waived on all returned materials.

Why does air quality affect SFPL To Go operations? Why does SFPL To Go close during heavy smoke events?

air-qualityWith wildfires in the surrounding areas, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in San Francisco can fluctuate between Yellow/Moderate to Red/Unhealthy, and possibly even Purple/Very Unhealthy. Because SFPL To Go is an outdoor operation, when the AQI reaches above 150/Red the Library must temporarily suspend SFPL To Go service to limit exposure to poor air quality for patrons and staff. However, bookdrops will remain open.

We recommend that you check our website and/or the AQI to verify whether or not we are open before you travel to pick up your materials. You can also call (415) 749-4900 for an air quality status update.

Will it be safe to pick up items? I’m concerned about waiting in line.

SFPL To Go has been approved by the City as meeting safe guidelines for service delivery.

We have designed a front door pick-up service where library staff and patrons will remain at least 6 feet apart. Staff will be wearing masks and gloves. Patrons will be required to wear masks and line up outside our buildings in a physically distanced manner, 6 feet apart. 

Protecting health and safety is our top priority, and SFPL To Go is designed accordingly. The Library’s site-specific health and safety plans are in place that have been approved by the Office of the City Administrator.

Are the items safe to handle? Is it safe for patrons? Is it safe for staff?

Guidance on safe materials handling has been provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health.

  • Your holds will be placed on a table for you to “grab and go.” You may bring a reusable bag, but per health guidelines, you may not place your bag on the table. If you need a bag, one will be provided.
  • Once you arrive, you will not be allowed inside the building.
  • A staff person will greet you at the door behind a table at least 6 feet distant, with a barrier.
  • When staff places your items on a table, they we will move away and allow you to approach and take your items.
  • When you return your items, staff will isolate them for 96 hours. Items will remain checked out to you until it’s safe for staff to handle them.

I have mobility/health issues and cannot make it to the library. How can I get materials?

You can designate a borrower to pick up your items if you are not able to come to the library.

The library has always allowed patrons to designate a borrower to pick up their library materials if they are not able to come in person. During the coronavirus pandemic, this is even more important for patrons who are in vulnerable groups and cannot safely venture out.

You can email or call 415-557-4400 to add a designated borrower to your library account. You will need to provide your full name, library card number, date of birth, address, email and telephone number. Once you have verified yourself, staff will add the name of your designated borrower to your library account.

For SFPL To Go service, your designated borrower will need to state your last name and the last 4 digits of your library card number in order to pick up front door holds. We recommend that your designated borrower bring your library card to the pick-up.

You may also be eligible for the Library by Mail service. You can find more information at Library by Mail.

Help with Your SFPL Account

Who can help me with my account PIN, fees, email address, etc.?

You can call or email Library staff.

Library staff is available to answer questions by phone and email from Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., and Sunday, 12–6 p.m. Contact us at 415-557-4400 or and visit

I lost my library card. Can I still get items?

SFPL staff can assist you with your account from Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., and Sunday, 12–6 p.m. Contact us at 415-557-4400 or

Can I get a library card?

Yes, until library buildings are open to the public, residents and employees of the City and County of San Francisco and students attending City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and San Francisco State University (SFSU) may apply online for a library account that may be used to place holds, borrow items and access online resources. City and County government employees, CCSF and SFSU students should register with their work or school email. Digital access is valid through June 30, 2021. Apply online or call 415-557-4400. You will receive a response within 48 hours. No physical cards will be issued at this time. Once we open our library buildings to the public, you will be notified to come in and get a physical library card.

Can I use Interlibrary Loan (ILL)?

The library has not resumed Interlibrary Loan service at this time.  You may not request items and existing requests cannot be filled. Limited assistance is available by email at

All ILL items were due on October 30, 2020. You may return any ILL items to open bookdrops. Bookdrops will be open during public service hours at the Main Library and all open SFPL To Go branch library locations. Items will be checked in and removed from your account after 96 hours. 

Can I use LINK+?

The library has resumed LINK+.  You may request books that are currently not available at SFPL. See more information on the LINK+ service.

You may return LINK+ items to open bookdrops. Bookdrops will be open during public service hours at the Main Library and all open SFPL To Go branch library locations. Items will be checked in and removed from your account after 96 hours.


Future Library Services

What’s next for SFPL? What services are coming?

The Library has prepared a draft plan for a phased return to full service that corresponds with the City and County of San Francisco’s health directives and easing of restrictions. All phases are contingent on SFPL’s staffing capacity, as much of our workforce is deployed as Disaster Service Workers, and on the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community.

PHASE 1: Launch of SFPL To Go
SFPL To Go enables patrons to reserve materials and pick them up at the front doors of select Library locations. Bookdrops at SFPL To Go locations are open for materials return.

PHASE 2: Limited In-Person Service at Select Library Locations

The Main Library and selected branches will reopen for limited browsing of physical materials, but with reduced hours, special hours for vulnerable patrons and limited access to stacks. Holds pick-up service is transitioned inside to a self-service model with self-checkout. Library staff at select locations continue assisting patrons with Reference and Readers Advisory through chat, phone calls, emails and limited face-to-face interactions. There will be no public seating, and access to computers and community rooms will be strictly limited and adhere to social distancing and other public health and safety requirements and may vary from location to location. No in-person public programming, only virtual.

PHASE 3: Limited Service at All Locations

Limited in-person library services are expanded to all 27 branches. Regular service hours resume at all locations with limited staffing at service desks. Specific hours for vulnerable patrons may be established. Limited in-person materials browsing and limited public computer services are provided. Seating use will be gradually reintroduced and configured based on social distancing recommendations. Additional library services may be reintroduced at library locations where physical layout can accommodate the services. Some public programming may resume with limitations on group size. Online programming continues.

PHASE 4: Resumption of Full Library Service (YIPPEE!)

Libraries return to full service; some modifications and practices from previous stages may continue based on ongoing guidelines and community needs.