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Explore San Francisco’s Libraries, Bookstores and Literary Landmarks While at ALA 2015

by on June 19, 2015

If you’re attending this year’s American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco, I hope you’ve booked some extra days to explore everything the city has to offer. The sea lions, murals, bridges, and parks should definitely be on your “to explore” list, but San Francisco is also chock-full of unique libraries and archives, one-of-a-kind book stores, and literary attractions.

Many of these locations are reachable by the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) system or close to the Moscone Center, where the conference is held.

Unique Libraries

The San Francisco Main Library, located just a few blocks away from the Moscone Center, has a fantastic History Center located on the 6th floor with photo and book arts collections. Also, be sure to take the ALA tour of five new/renovated branch libraries.

If you’re staying in Oakland or simply want to check out what’s on the other side of the Bay, the African American Museum and Libraries is not to be missed. Close to BART, this branch of the Oakland Public Library holds over 160 collections that document African American history in California.

The Society of California Pioneers’ Alice Phelan Sullivan Library was one of the first libraries established in San Francisco. The collection boasts books and documents from the Gold Rush and biographical information on the early California Pioneers.

While you’re exploring San Francisco, you might see the name “Sutro” come up (Sutro Tower, Sutro Baths, Sutro Forest, etc.). You can explore San Francisco’s 24th mayor’s collection at the Sutro Library, where you’ll find rare items such as Shakespeare’s folios, a collection on Mexican culture, and a first edition of the King James Bible.

And if maritime history is more of your thing, be sure to check out the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Library, at beautiful Fort Mason. The library has over 3,000 maps and charts dating from 1850 to the present.

The Prelinger Library, located near Moscone Center, is an independent library with 19th and 20th century periodicals, maps, and books. There will also be an ALA evening gala on Sunday, June 28th with library founder Rick Prelinger.

Cool Library-Related Nonprofits to Visit

The San Francisco Center for the Book is a nonprofit that promotes books and bookmaking. Drop in and visit the SFCB’s gallery, or maybe even coincide your visit with a book release party!

The Internet Archive’s physical headquarters is open to the public on Fridays from 1-3 pm. The Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, is presenting at ALA in a session called “Building Libraries Together,” from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 27th.

Has your public library requested software or hardware from TechSoup for Libraries? Or perhaps you’ve attended one of our webinars and have some suggestions? TechSoup is headquartered in San Francisco (full disclosure: I work there) and we will be in full force staff at ALA!

Bookstores and Literary Attractions

San Francisco has so many wonderful bookstores, so this is by no means a full list. City Lights in North Beach is not to be missed for its history in the Beat and counterculture movements. Green Apple Books might not be as well-known, but it’s regularly voted the best bookstore in local publications. And be sure to check out Marcus Bookstore in the Fillmore neighborhood, the oldest black bookstore in the nation.

A quick BART ride away from Moscone Center, the Mission neighborhood is full of unique bookstores such as the much-loved Dog Eared Books, the sci-fi specializing Borderlands, the collectively-owned Modern Times, and Mission Comics and Art.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s The Literary City maps Bay Area bookstores, literary sites, author homes, and much more. Travel to Gertrude Stein’s childhood home (Oakland), see where the Maltese Falcon was lifted (San Francisco), and see where the drive-in was in Hunter S. Thompson’s “Generation of Swine” (Daly City).

But if you absolutely don’t have the time to spare while at ALA, that’s okay too. Just make sure to take a second to watch the June fog roll in, briefly people-watch at the San Francisco Pride activities, and, while it might be a tourist cliché, grab a clam chowder bread bowl for lunch.


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