PRELINGER LIBRARY: Book Activists

“Our library’s greatest strength is bad ideas.” —Rick Prelinger

The Prelinger Library is a privately funded public library in San Francisco founded in 2004 and operated by Rick Prelinger and Megan Shaw Prelinger. Housing over 50,000 books, periodicals and pieces of print ephemera, the collection specializes in materials and works not typically found in public libraries.

Situated in a rather anonymous building in SoMA above a carpet store, The Prelinger Library is a kind of collection of curios “intended to utilize the scraps of history to open up the future.”

Rick and Megan occupy a rather idiosyncratic niche in this digital moment. They are are autodidactic bibliophiles whose eclectic collection — “this place is a gentle monkey wrench in the world of libraries and archives,” says Rick — is lovingly tended, pruned and crafted.

It all might seem a bit fussy and historical, but it’s not. The library “is an appropriation-friendly space,” says Prelinger. Cellphone photography is encouraged as are wandering scholars. There should be more places like this.