Visit to the Prelinger Library: Ethnographic Reflections

On Thursday, September 17, 2015 I journeyed to the Prelinger Library for the inaugural ‘Place Talks: Visual Lectures about Location.’ Accompanied by my friends—a geography and maps librarian and a digital humanities technologist—I wanted to support my friend, Charlie Macquarie, for his talk and also to explore the famous Prelinger Library. Charlie is an archivist, librarian at Bancroft Library, artist, and writer from Northern Nevada. He leads up the “The Library of Approximate Location”—a project to “explore landscape, place, and the way we use information to define our relationships to the resources that enable modern life.” The Prelinger Library is located in the transforming South-of-market neighborhood in San Francisco. An independent research library, the Prelinger Library was born out of the collection of a pair of curious collectors, Megan and Rick Prelinger. The library consists of 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, and material mostly from the United States. The library is organized in such a way to inspire accidental discoveries and connections and encourages ‘use’ rather than passive consumption. Instead of a topical mode of organization, the books are organized geospatially—starting with material on San Francisco spiraling out to topics on outer space.