In many ways, its popularity as a homeless hangout is no surprise because the library is centrally located, free, open to anyone, doesn't have security checks and has plenty of bathrooms. But the library has, well, begun to turn the page on the problem by hiring what is believed to be the country's first full-time psychiatric social worker stationed in a public library.
In a partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the library hired Leah Esguerra a year ago this month, and she now has directed into social services more than 150 homeless people and others living on the edge in low-cost residential hotels who frequent the library.
This is a very interesting transition. The social worker also teaches the librarians what to do if they witness unpleasant behavior and supervises "health and safety associates" - formerly homeless people who take part in a 12-week vocational rehabilitation program and then become employed by the library.
Do you think libraries nationwide should adopt this approach?