San Francisco Public Library has received a $6.3 million grant from the California State Library to help fund critical repairs and upgrades to the main library’s seismic moat and roof.

The library said in a statement the Building Forward Grant addresses “the deteriorating conditions of these essential components, ensuring the safety and preservation of the library’s valuable collections and improving building access for patrons and staff.”

“Our main library is a vital resource for the community,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “The Building Forward grant guarantees the Main Library’s seismic moat and roof are brought up to modern standards, ensuring that the library remains a safe and welcoming space for all.”

Completed in 1996, the main library’s roof and seismic moat have exceeded their serviceable lives, the library said. The seismic moat allows the building to move side to side, thereby protecting it from the full force and jolt of an earthquake and preserving access to the building after the event.

YouTube video
An explainer on how base isolation (a form of seismic moat) works as installed on an art museum in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Out There Learning/YouTube)

The library, the city’s public works department and the original moat manufacturer collaborated to design a replacement that will increase the survivability of the entrance paths after an earthquake.

The library will match the grant to fund the projects by allocating money from its library preservation fund over several fiscal years through the city’s annual budget process.

“I want to thank the California State Library for awarding us this grant,” stated San Francisco Librarian Michael Lambert. “Our main library is the heart of our library system, serving roughly 15,000 people per week. We are committed to maintaining and improving our facilities to better serve the community, so that we can continue our mission of providing free access to knowledge, resources and programs that empower individuals to thrive.”

Located in San Francisco’s Civic Center, the 376,000-square-foot library offers twice as much usable space as its predecessor, which is now home to the Asian Art Museum.

The main library has more than 1.2 million items in its collection and is home to the San Francisco History Center, the city’s official archive, book arts & special collections, the Government Information Center — the official depository of all city government documents, and the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA+ Center, encompassing the nation’s first research collection of gay and lesbian materials.