San Francisco Library pushed into restricting public internet access because unhoused people use it

Originally published at: San Francisco Library pushed into restricting public internet access because unhoused people use it | Boing Boing


I thought the American Library Association had a code of ethics for its members that prohibited targeting a group of citizens for denial of services. It’s disheartening to see how easily people dehumanize other people.


And of all places the Harvey Milk library… I don’t know in depth what all his views were but it seems like social justice was his calling card and this kinda goes against that spirit. :frowning:


Seems more logical to require all public funded institutions to have free public access so that people that need it don’t have to go to a library.


Of course unhoused people are drawn to libraries. They are among the few remaining public locations where people are allowed to exist without any expectation of spending money. That’s one of the things that makes libraries so great.


Once upon a time (about a decade ago) the city was trying to do exactly that, using money provided by Google. Really sad to see this backsliding.


“…a lot of sick people.” WTF bigot?!


It’d be a real darned shame if volunteers took turns operating an open hot spot on their phones at the library.


It’s a nice thought but they’d have to be there (or leave their phones there) after hours and a mobile phone hotspot probably wouldn’t have anything close to the range or bandwidth we’re talking about. Not really a viable substitute for the library’s WiFi service.


24/7 Wi-Fi was indeed among Mandelman’s top priorities. Then he got it closed down. Then it magically became not among his top priorities? The good Supervisor is going to need a more coherent position on this, lest he be viewed as just another shabby politician.


When the pandemic hit in earnest, our school system went on-line (as did most others). The number of people that didn’t have ready access to wifi was sobering to me, and a bit of a wake up call to my indifference. That an institution as revered as the public library would purposely limit access to information and a resource necessary to succeed in society is very troubling.


I notice this is the third time in recent days that you chose to post a long complaint about how disappointed you were during your visit to San Francisco. We get it; it’s not your kind of city.

This story isn’t about you, or about tourism in the city.


Would you think that SF is another one of those cities that needs to discourage tourism to allow it to prioritise services for those living there?

Like Barcelona would be a much better city if at least three quarters of the tourists visiting there stayed at home. Though it’s hard to see how we get there when municipal and central governments are all in on subsidies to airports and airlines and aviation fuel which is why you can fly to x city on EasyJet so cheaply: we are all paying for it. Socialism works!


Unhoused depend on libraries to remedy their situation, access services, and employment. Turning off wifi just makes things worse and is therefore a false saving on the part of municipal authorities. It will cost them in the end.


It’s worth noting, I think that the Eureka Valley / Harvey Milk Memorial Branch is on 16th St, near Mission Dolores, near Market st. , which is six block saway from the “seedy” portion, i.e. 16th and Mission. The neighborhood feel really changes in those six blocks.

So, instead of leaving on their Wi-Fi overnight so unhoused people could access the internet from the sidewalk, the library was forced to shut it off, though leaving it on cost nothing, because neighbors complained that it caused unhoused people to hang out on the sidewalk after hours in order to access the internet.
Sounds like SF neighbors in general are a bunch of assholes. (No offense to SF mutants).
They could’ve, for instance, instead insisted that the city should have city-wide hot spots or internet, like so many cities in other wealthy parts of the world have. The fact that the Wi-Fi was a draw simply shows how lacking it is everywhere else, so the solution is…take it away from this place, too?


The simplest, cheapest solution to the wrong problem entirely.


I saw something recently, it doesn’t apply universally but it’s an interesting mental chart, it looked at the quality of public infrastructure based on two factors: public trust and government regulations. So where trust is high, you generally can have nice things. Where trust is low, not so much. Where trust is high but regulations are also high, you might have nice things, but it will take a while.
An example they gave was how the bus stops in…maybe rural Argentina? Are nicer than in urban LA, because high trust, low regulations means all these fruit carts pop up near the bus stops in Argentina, and they put up shade umbrellas so people will come wait there.
Meanwhile, in LA, a low trust, high regulation area, they just paid $10k a pop to put up these “shade structures.”


No, but pols who prioritize style over substance (how a place looks instead of how it functions) need to be held accountable. That pursuit of tourism dollars does lead some to try and sweep problems under the rug so visitors won’t see them. You can have both, if pols focus on making places better for everyone, not just those with money.


I wonder if any of the neighbors were leaching the library’s wi-fi, and thought that removing the unhoused would improve their access, but didn’t think it through?

In some cities in Europe it’s not remotely sustainable. Barcelona in particular (just as it is possibly the largest city, which relies least on tourism, which is over visited) but a bunch of other cities need to shed huge numbers of tourists. Like the majority of them. If they want to be anything but destinations.

Flats and houses are all used for Air b’n’bs, hotels for refugees and “emergency” accomodation for the unhoused, and there’s nothing to rent. Obviously the start point is banning air bnbs utterly and entirely. Here in Dublin something like 0.1% are actually legal in the first place. Building social housing in the numbers needed is a bigger ask and the greedflation in the construction industry is off the charts. The first happened during Covid and there was no housing crisis for a bit. There was also a policy of giving the chronically unhoused a front door which, as has been shown all around the world where it has been tried, is effective but also cheaper than dealing with their problems as acute emergencies.