The historic San Francisco Main Library is getting some much-needed repairs and upgrades thanks to a $6.3 million grant from the state of California. The grant will fund crucial roof and seismic strengthening projects to improve the aging building’s safety and preserve the century-old landmark.
Built in 1917, the Beaux-Arts style library has long endured weather damage and lacks modern seismic protections. Leaky skylights and roof damage have plagued the upper floors for years, while the unreinforced masonry structure is vulnerable in earthquakes.
The renovation work will focus on the roof and attic first, replacing all skylights and unstable roofing materials. Structural upgrades will follow, adding steel bracing and reinforced concrete to strengthen walls and increase seismic resilience. The lower levels will also get waterproofing with new drainpipes and flashing.
Library officials call the renovation a vital step in protecting the cherished building for current and future generations. The San Francisco Main Library sees over 2.5 million annual visitors across its seven floors, housing everything from the historic James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center to the SF History Center. Preserving such an important cultural hub builds community ties.
Work is slated to begin in mid-2023 once contractors are hired, continuing into 2024. The top two floors will close during construction but the rest of the library will remain open. When finished, the renovated landmark will have weather-tight roofing, reduced water damage, and crucial reinforcements to withstand major earthquakes.
Securing the renovation grant took years of work by city librarians and support from state officials. The total costs are estimated at $19 million, with the library foundation raising additional funds. The repairs will build on past upgrade projects, ensuring the San Francisco Main Library remains a vibrant, safe gathering place for all.