SPOTLIGHT: Prelinger Library in San Francisco

The Prelinger Library is an independent, appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, printed ephemera and government documents. It is open to the public.

Why We Built This Library

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.

Read more at http://www.prelingerlibrary.org/

For another view of the library see “Using Serendipity to Navigate the Stacks,” by Sarah Lester in Ambidextrous, Spring 2009.