Frank's Love Affair with the SF Public Library

10/04/17 - posted by Paul Judge

Frank “Dewey Decimal System” Dunnigan’s current Streetwise column sweetly describes his love affair with the San Francisco Public Library. Frank’s rich memories and detailed recollections loosened a few of my childhood memories of the role that libraries played. In my family upbringing libraries like museums and certain public monuments elicited respect and quietude among us five kids. On a regular basis after dinner dad would walk us to the six blocks to the Anza Branch Library between Geary and Anza. Those treks were full of anticipation and curiosity. The 500 block of 37th Avenue is one of the steepest hills in the Richmond District, so steep that vehicles park perpendicular to the west side curb. The Anza Branch is on the same lot that the original Lafayette Elementary School had been built in 1909. Those rural kids out amongst the sand dunes must have been part goat to climb and descend that hill. We’d take the wide staircase up to the front doors and entering the library lobby immediately be greeted by the fragrance of floor wax and atmosphere of steam heat from wall radiators. My dad and older sisters turned left into the main room while myself and younger sister turned right into the children’s room. We’d browse the shelves gathering picture books we fancied or that caught our attention. The main room was larger and occupied by adults and groups of older school kids hunched together whispering supposedly studying at long wood tables and chairs. Bookshelves lined the perimeter walls. Straddling the main aisle with their many drawers the polished wood card catalog cabinets were a remote mystery to my preschool brain. I was quite fascinated by the pencils the librarians used. Attached to the pencil was a metal bracket holding a Due Date Stamp with which they inked the return date on the loan slip inside each book. That ‘thingamajig’ seemed to encompass the power of the librarians and their library. We could walk home with our books in hand but we left knowing we must return them by the date stamped within.

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