The Prelinger Library is an independent research library located in San Francisco’s South-of-Market neighborhood. It is open to anyone for research, reading, inspiration, and reuse. Unlike most public libraries, Prelinger puts an emphasis on the browsing experience and the adventure of discovering new things.
The library is primarily a collection of 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books, most published in the United States. Much of the collection is image-rich, and in the public domain. The library specializes in material that is not commonly found in other public libraries. The library was co-founded in 2004 by Megan and Rick Prelinger. It is also part of a community of local and international artists, writers, activists, and other makers. It is visited by a thousand people every year. Many of these people, organizations and institutions, have contributed to the library and helped to make it what it is. Over time, the library staff has tried to assemble a collection that paints a picture of American history and culture through ephemera, periodicals, and books that were often not part of the cultural mainstream. This collection strategy, together with the practical limits on shelf space, means that they are unable to provide a shelf for everything that is offered. The library is a sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco.