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Friends of the San Francisco Public Library shutters Fort Mason store, shifting sales online

Photo courtesy Friends of the SFPL
By Camden Avery - Published on July 17, 2020.

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library bookstore at Fort Mason has closed permanently, according to an announcement from Friends of the SFPL. 

The bookstore, which hosted events and sold books and other media donated through Friends' donation program, was a cornerstone of Friends' fundraising efforts for the San Francisco Public Library, alongside the annual Big Book Sale, which was canceled for 2020.

"San Francisco Public Library is grateful for the ongoing support of Friends," Kate Patterson, director of communications for the San Francisco Public Library, said in an email. "We understand that their decision was difficult but necessary in order to ensure their future sustainability, so that they can continue to support our work."

The book sales help underwrite the Friends' financial support of SFPL's $150 million annual budget, raising some $1.5 million annually and distributing that money in direct grants and services, according to the Friends' annual report and SFPL's current budget.

In 2019 the Friends provided SFPL with over $813,000 in direct support for the library and its preservation fund, as well as programming, writer residencies, volunteer coordination, and more.

The Friends' book donation program will resume "in mid to late August,"  according to SFPL's website. The group is in the process of launching a plan to sell books online via Ebay, as well as behemoth online retailer Amazon.

Representatives from the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library did not reply to requests for comment at press time.

Update: Marie Ciepiela, the executive director  of Friends of the Public Library, said in an email the move was prompted because the bookstore program's "underlying structure became too big," and after accounting for operating expenses was running at a loss. "The changes we are making now ensure its future and we are committed to having bookstores and book sales," Ciepiela added. "It’s just going to have to be different."

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