Current Dates of Operation  

History (and Future) of the Library   

On the Organization of the Library  

Periodicals Holdings  

Periodicals Want List


Periodicals Listings Blog written by volunteer H. Jovanelli

Library Blog

Thanks to Donors

Honored Shelvers   

Prelinger Library Digital Collections Page

-- currently 3,767 fully downloadable digital books

Our library brochure (PDF)
right-click (Windows) or control-click (Mac) to save

Current Dates and Times of Public Drop-in Hours (no appointment needed):

  • The library is open every Wednesday, 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.

  • Visitors seeking sit-down meetings with the library founders are advised to email (info at prelingerlibrary dot org) in advance of visiting. Otherwise, no appointments are needed during our public open hours.
  • Coming soon! In mid-October! A new website here, all shiny and well-made!
  • Additional appointment hours are occasionally -- only occasionally -- available by request for out-of-towners and others who are unable to visit on our posted open days. Send an email to info - at - prelingerlibrary - dot - org to request an off-hours appointment.

    The library is at 301 8th Street (corner of Folsom Street), Room 215 in San Francisco.

    Toward a prepared visit:
    We suggest that library visitors bring digital cameras with them when possible. That has proven to be the simplest method of casual page capture. We also have a copy machine. For more advanced image retrieval from the library, visitors are welcome to use our flatbed scanner, or bring their own. Visitors planning to use the library's flatbed scanner for publication-ready image capture should bring a PC-formatted USB drive with with them for transport of their images. We also have an on-site cross-platform flash drive for visitor use as needed to transfer images from scanner to Mac-platform computer.

    Check-out policy: We encourage users to take materials out of the library by means of photography, copying, scanning, or downloading digital books from the digital books collection. We regret that we can't allow analog books to leave the library.

    Thank you for visiting!

    Pre-Blog News About the Library:

    -- Sixty-five resounding THANK YOU!s are in order to our guests who helped us sort printed ephemera on Sunday, December 11, 2005. We were overwhelmed by the supportive turnout and we hope everyone had as much fun as we did. We couldn't have done it without you. You are all now contributors to the library project.

    Thank you to San Francisco Magazine, for naming us "Best Library" in San Francisco in their July 2005 issue.

    In April of 2005, Megan published an essay about her experience building the Library: To Build a Library.

    On October 27 2004, we added a list of periodicals, serials and zines held in the library.

    On October 20 2004, this website was updated with a new article about how the library is organized.

    We are busy this year with sorting our periodical runs, and carefully un-shelving duplicate issues to make more room on the shelves. We have several opportunities for volunteers to work with us this year, so please let us know if you are interested in helping with the project. We have plenty of days available to schedule volunteer projects.

    Hello to the students who have been visiting as part of their coursework at San Francisco Art Institute, California College of Arts, UC Berkeley, Mllls College, Independent School of the Arts and San Francisco State University. Come back and see us some time.

    Thanks to Donors

    We extend heartfelt thanks to the following individuals and organizations who have donated materials to our library:

    People: Christa Aboitiz - Charles Acland - Larry Adelman - Geoff Alexander - Anonymous in Hawaii - Anonymous in Sacramento - Anonymous in San Francisco - Ashton Applewhite - Archimedia - Alisa Austin - Craig Baldwin - Amy Balkin - Lawrence Banka & Judith Gordon - Ottavia Bassetti - Willi Baum - Andrew Beccone / Reanimation Library - Jeffrey Bell - Alan Berliner - William L. Bird - D. Steven Black - Blast Books - Jeremy Blatter - Peter J. Bloom - John Borden - Harold J. Boucher - Bryan Boyce - Eric Breitbart - Summer Brenner - Martha Bridegam - Timothy Caldwell - Monty Cantsin - Christopher Carley - Chris Carlsson - Denise Caruso - Freya Channing - Julia Christensen and her Future of the Book class at Oberlin College, Spring 2009 - The Ciccone Family - John Cloud - Liz Coffey - Emma Coleman - Brian Conley - Maeve Connelly - Laura Corsiglia - Michelle Crouch - Kathy Dalle-Molle - Dennis D'Ambrogio - Drew Daniel - Molly Davis - Mike and Sandi Deckinger - Caitlin deSilvey - Nancy deStefanis - Barbara Deutsch - David Duckworth - Kimberly Dunn and Don Stevens - Mary Szilagyi Durkee - Eli Edwards - Eric Eldred - Skip Elsheimer - Yves Feder - Donnali Fifield - Corinna Fish - Severine von Tscharner Fleming - Amy Franceschini - Jenna Freedman - Andrew Frothingham and Lynn Decker - Futurefarmers - Jennifer Gabrys - Gretchen Garner - Joseph Gerhardt - - John Gilmore - Lisa Gitelman - Green Arcade Books - George Griffin - Danny Grobani - Dee Dee Halleck - Molly Hankwitz - Karen Hanning - James Harbison - Amber Hasselbring - Glen Helfand - Julie Herrada - Kathy High - Meg Holle - Cheryl Holzmeyer - Arthur Huang - Barbara Humphrys - Pamela Jackson - Ruth Jarman - Denis Jones - Martin Kalfatovic - Mary Kalfatovic - Jeffrey Kaplan - Kayo Books - Angie Keefer - Liz Keim - A.H. Keith - Kevin Kelly - Andreas Killen - Kim Klausner - Richard Koszarski - Woody LaBounty - Alene & Will Lamb - Jesse Langman - Ahree Lee - Rick Lewis - Sarah Lewison - A. Mark Liiv - Laura Lindgren - The Liu Family - Michael Loebenstein - Henry Lowood - Katherin Mcinnis - Stephen & Holly Massey - Eef Masson - Ann Marie Matheu - Marina McDougall - Annette Melville - Monte Merrick - Nicholas Mitchell - Brian A. Monahan - Anne Elizabeth Moore - Conway Lloyd Morgan - Thomas Morley - Jim Morton - Annalee Newitz - Bob Ostertag - Kristin Palm - Jennifer Paull - Kate Phillimore - Greg Pierce - Steve Polta - Elizabeth Prelinger - Ernst Prelinger - Polly Prelinger - Renny Pritikin - Kathleen Quillian - Ashley Ramage - Trudy Myrrh Reagan - Daniel Reetz - Vanessa Renwick - Timothy Ries - David & Jeanette Robertson - Irving Rosenthal - Gordon Rowe - Abby Smith Rumsey - David Rumsey - Alison Sant - Martin Schmidt - Peter Sellars - Marc Selvaggio & Donnis De Camp - Barbara Shaw - Robert L. Shaw - Ken Shawcroft - Scott Shawcroft - David Silberman - Dexter Sinister - Dan Sinker - Patricia Soberanis - Jim Spadaccini - Sharon Spain - Thomas Stanley - Jim Stewart - Dan Strachota - Kenneth M. Swezey - Jeff Taylor - Kathleen Tyner - Zane Vella - Chris Weicher - David Wexler - E. Jane White - Marshall Windmiller - Dan Wilson - Dawn Marsh Wilson - Robert Wise - Gary Wolf - Wade Wright - Erhhung Yuan - Pod P. Yvol - Sarah Ziebell - Martha Zweig

    Institutions: The Berkeley Center for Appropriate Transit - The James J. Hill Memorial Library - The Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan - Lawrence Public Library - The Midnight Special Law Collective - The Nevada State Library - Oakland Public Library - Punk Planet Magazine - The University of North Florida.

    We are working on keeping these lists up to date. If you have donated material to us and do not see your name here, please write and remind us to add you.

    History (and Future) of the Project

    Why We Built This Library

    The Prelinger Library is an appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, printed ephemera and government documents located in San Francisco, California, USA.

    Though libraries live on (and are among the least-corrupted democratic institutions), the freedom to browse serendipitously is becoming rarer. Now that many research libraries are economizing on space and converting print collections to microfilm and digital formats, it's becoming harder to wander and let the shelves themselves suggest new directions and ideas. Key academic and research libraries are often closed to unaffiliated users, and many keep the bulk of their collections in closed stacks, inhibiting the rewarding pleasures of browsing. Despite its virtues, query-based online cataloging often prevents unanticipated yet productive results from turning up on the user's screen. And finally, much of the material in our collection is difficult to find in most libraries readily accessible to the general public.

    Most important of all, people wishing to copy library holdings for research and transformative use often face difficulties in making legitimate copies. Since the act of quoting and recontextualizing existing words and images is indistinguishable from making new ones, we think it's important for libraries to build appropriation-friendly access into their charters, and we're trying to take a big first step in this direction.

    We are interested in exploring how libraries with specialized, unique, and arcane collections such as ours can exist and flourish outside protected academic environments and be made available to people working outside of those environments, especially artists, activists and independent scholars.

    We plan at first to open our library to others when we are there, and develop a model of service based on what we learn of other people's needs. It will be an appropriation-friendly setting. Scanners, digital cameras, and CD/DVD burners will be available so that visitors can make digital copies of items of interest and take them home. There will be no charge for using the collections, though we are exploring charging for commercial reuse of the materials so as to recover some of our expenses.

    What's in the collection?

    Some of its strengths include:

    • The North American landscape; material about people and place, cultural geography, rural and urban geography, travel and tourism, highways and car culture, parks and recreation
    • housing (building, design, and decoration), city planning, architecture, infrastructure
    • natural history; cultural relationships to nature
    • the history of industry, manufacturing, and extraction of raw materials
    • media and technology: extensive collection on the history of radio, TV, nontheatrical motion pictures, telephones, networking, electricity
    • advertising, marketing and consumerism
    • thousands of maps
    • an extensive collection of outdated (and beautifully illustrated) school textbooks (1880-1970) in fields like social studies, home economics, science, and history, all redolent with the ideologies of their time
    • regional, urban, social, and cultural history
    • an extensive collection of government documents, including 19th-century primary materials on Native Americans; agricultural and wildlife publications; materials on rivers, forests and highways; the Official Gazette of the Patent Office (1872-1980); Congressional hearings and reports on crime, youth, dissent, immigration, the civil rights movement, the Atomic Energy Commission, veterans' issues, and labor; planning reports; and thousands of US Geological Survey maps and monographs
    • radical and labor history
    • the history of ephemeral and nontheatrical film (surprise!)
    • over 500 runs of periodicals, both mainstream and obscure, including regional historical journals; American City; American Planning and Civic Annual; Public Ownership; American Municipalities; Geographical Review; Greater New York; Survey and Survey Graphic; Graphis; Cry California; Condor; The Lamp; The Annals: Proceedings from the Political Science Association; Rural Sociology; Signs; Black Scholar; Ms.; the Economist; The Nation; Unpopular Review; Electrical West; Schism; Advocate of Peace; FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin; Display World; Mill and Factory; Soviet Woman; Life; Look; Fortune; the Militant; Coronet; Park & Cemetery; Through the Ages; Builder; Uranium; Iron Age; Good Housekeeping; Good Roads; Social Hygiene; Full Cry; Bell System Technical Journal; Broadcasting; Coronet; Bus Transportation; Inland Printer; Advertising & Selling; Candy Manufacturers and Confectioners Journal; Modern Packaging; and many, many more.
    • -- and much, much more. For more about what's in the library and how its subjects are arranged, see Megan's essay On the Organization of the Prelinger Library.

    Honored Shelvers

    In June of 2004, fifty-eight friends and acquaintances joined us in a collaborative labor project that lasted for eight days and exceeded all of our hopes and dreams. 95 percent of the library contents were shelved that week through a materialization of about 700 shelving hours donated by volunteers whose generosity is unsurpassed. Those volunteers are a permanent part of the library's lifeblood. We want to extend especially deep thanks to the following people, who flew from the east coast to participate in shelving week:

    Skip Elsheimer, Jim Fleming, Germaine Fodor, Lewanne Jones, Fred Messner, Steven Messner, Elizabeth Prelinger, Tim Ries, and Heather Rogers.

    Here is a complete list of shelvers in alphabetical order:
    Christa Aboitiz --- Jon Aizen --- Geoff Alexander --- Glenna Allee --- Blanche Angelo --- Craig Baldwin --- Ottavia Bassetti --- Astrid Molly Bragg --- Abby Bridge --- Chris Carlsson --- Cindy Chan --- Emma Coleman --- Jennifer Crakow --- Peter Davidson --- Molly Davis --- Donnis deCamp --- John Durham --- Bart Eisenberg --- Sue Eisenberg --- Skip Elsheimer --- Jim Fleming --- Germaine Fodor --- Amy Larkin Gelbach --- Chris Hazen --- Paige Hazen --- Steve Jenkins --- Lewanne Jones --- Kathy Kaiser --- Liz Keim --- Kerry Laitala --- Noel Lawrence --- Sandra Joy Lee --- Katherin McInnis --- Frederick Messner --- Steven Messner --- Ralf Muehlen --- Scott Owen --- Kristin Palm --- Stephen Parr --- Elizabeth Prelinger --- Phillip Racies --- Tim Ries --- Heather Rogers --- Angelo Sacerdote --- Ali Sant --- Florian Sauvin --- Joel Schalit --- Marc Selvaggio --- Bob Sombrio --- Scott Stark --- Heather Stilin --- Michael Swaine --- Parker Thompson --- Kathleen Tyner --- Dan Wilson --- Gary Wolf --- Luca Wullschleger --- Eddie Yuen

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