Alternative Libraries of San Francisco

February 14, 2016

This Valentine’s day we made it a Library Lovers’ Day and visited two of my favorite libraries in SF:

Stop 1: The Prelinger Library

The Prelinger library is basically the personal research library of archivist power-couple Megan Prelinger and Rick Prelinger. It’s open one day every week, and two weekends a month. It uses its own unique classification scheme and hosts both digital and non-digital books as well as pretty large collection of ephemera. The classification scheme encourages browsing and discovery. I always discover a new treasure whenever I’m here. Tonight it was the Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York (1860) which in addition to seating maps of 19th century politicians and minutes of meetings has amazing foldout engravings of daily life in New York City in the early to mid 1800s.

Prelinger Library – Official Website

Stop 2: The Mechanics’ Institute Library

Started as the Gold Rush was dying out with a vocational and technical focus, The Mechanics’ Institute Library is the oldest library on the West Coast, and it contains the oldest chess club in the United States. This library is open to the public, but membership requires a fee. 1854 isn’t that old even by East Coast standards, but this place has about as much gravitas as this part of the country can muster. I especially like their large-format book collection, which is pleasure to leaf through on the nice leather couches. Flipped through books on Roman armor, birds of prey, Tarot, and menswear (which has an introduction by Terrence Stamp).

Mecahnics’ Institute Library & Chess Room – Official Website

Alternative Libraries of San Francisco - February 14, 2016 - Michael Katsevman