San Francisco Public Library branches collect basic materials that meet the needs of the branch community, at adult, teen and children's reading levels. Reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, selected editions of important works, and directories and handbooks are available at each branch. Circulating materials include fiction and nonfiction best sellers, classic and literary fiction, popular nonfiction materials such as cookbooks, travel books, and current, general works on a wide range of subjects. Branch libraries also obtain materials to support student curriculum needs on such topics as California missions, science fairs and states. Branches offer a variety of magazines, newspapers and audiovisual materials such as audiobooks, CDs and DVDs. Small collections of large print books are also provided. Books not collected by a branch may be obtained through the library's request system, as well as through Link+ or Interlibrary Loan. Most of the Library's large collection of electronic resources is accessible from all branch locations and online 24 hours a day at www.sfpl.org.
Language collections in the branches serve the needs of the bilingual and non-English-speaking communities of San Francisco with basic high interest non-English materials for adults, teens and children. Patrons learning new languages also use these collections. Book collections include current and classic fiction titles written in the native language, as well as translations of English language best sellers. Popular subjects such as cooking, computers, travel and poetry are included. Special emphasis is placed on materials which aid new immigrants in adapting to their new culture: language learning, citizenship information, educational materials, health, psychological support and motivational materials. Newspapers, periodicals and audiovisual materials are also provided in the native language. Language collections are typically placed in branches when the language population reaches a level of 10% of the community. Language collections are collected at small, medium, and large levels. Small and medium collections are predominately circulating materials. Small collections range from 200 to 1000 volumes. Medium collections contain 1000 to 4000 volumes. Large collections, over 4000 volumes, include several encyclopedias and extensive reference collections. The largest branch language collections are: Chinese, at Chinatown Branch; Spanish, at Mission Branch; Japanese, at Western Addition Branch; and Russian, at Richmond Branch. The International Center at the Main Library is a system-wide resource with materials in 40 languages.
Materials of ethnic and community interest are collected in branches with large international language collections, or large representative ethnic or community groups. These collections include circulating and reference materials in English that focus on the countries and cultures of specific language communities and ethnic or community groups. The materials include customs, history, biography, arts and culture of countries of origin, and the experiences of specific ethnic or community groups in the United States. The major Interest Collections are: African-American Interest at Bayview Branch; Chinese Interest at Chinatown Branch; Filipino Interest at Excelsior Branch; LGBT Interest at Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch; Japanese Interest at Western Addition Branch; and Latino Interest at Mission Branch. The Main Library provides similar collections in the African American Center, Chinese Center, Filipino American Center, and Gay and Lesbian Center.
Many branch libraries keep a file of information that is pertinent to their communities. Neighborhood files may contain clippings from local newspapers and magazines, pamphlets, brochures, photographs and ephemera related to the neighborhood that directly surrounds the branch library. Each branch library collection of neighborhood files varies in size and scope according to the needs of the community and the availability of resources. A research collection covering San Francisco history, including aspects of many neighborhoods, can be found in the San Francisco History Center at the Main Library.
During the Branch Library Improvement Program, bookmobile service will be provided to the communities whose libraries have closed. Bookmobile collections are mainly popular materials including books and audiovisual items. Collections are primarily in English but will include language materials, if relevant to the communities served. Alternate sites may be used to provide library services and collections. Expanded collections of high interest or language materials may also be placed at neighboring branches to meet community needs.