Friday, September 7, 2007

Visit your local branch library

Someone has to break the stranglehold of bored schoolchildren and senior citizens on public library usage. Luckily for the continent among us, the San Francisco Public Library makes it easy, with 26 branches spread throughout the city, most with free WiFi access and many open until 9PM a few nights a week.

Library cards are free for California residents and not only allow you to check out materials in person, but also give you access to a host of online resources. You can search the catalogue; place holds on materials and request delivery to your favored branch once they become available; renew stuff you've checked out; request from a 9-million-title, intra-California lending network any book that the SFPL may not have--all from home, in bed, wearing only the boxers you've had on for the last few days.

For the especially thrifty, the SFPL offers a way to skirt both a monthly Netflix bill and the $3 charge for a movie-plus-tiresome-interaction-with-the-congenitally-unfriendly-staff at Lost Weekend Video by allowing members to request and/or check out any title in its voluminous collection. For free.

For starters, I would recommend the Mission Branch Library. The reading room's ceiling alone is worth the trip. Founded in 1888, the Mission branch is the oldest in the city. The present, post-earthquake building, which opened in 1915, was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, who also designed the Warfield and the Golden Gate theaters in San Francisco, as well as the Orpheum, Wiltern and El Capitan theaters in LA.

The Mission Branch Library is located on the corner of Bartlett St. and 24th. It is open 7 days a week (!). Andrew Carnegie was the self-made steel magnate whose personal philanthropy was legendary--e.g., he funded the construction of over 3,000 libraries in 47 states. He was a staunch advocate of a "confiscatory" estate tax, writing in his essay "Wealth", "By taxing estates heavily at death the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire's unworthy life." Interestingly, he was not known for dealing with his workers in a particularly benevolent fashion.

No comments: