Maps at the Speakeasy of Libraries – Prelinger Library, San Francisco, USA


A few weeks ago, I visited the Prelinger Library after my friend sent me this article from Wired’s MapLab: Rarely Seen Maps From San Francisco’s Quirkiest Hidden Library. What a treat! It was like a speakeasy, but in library form because I found the code on their website and when we approached the building I used the code. They answered and I indicated my interest in visiting the library and they buzzed us into the building. We took the elevator up to the second floor, down a barren hallway and into a room full of historical content.

With limited opening hours (only on Wednesdays), it felt even more exclusive, but very accessible if you just seek it out. I was greeted by Rick Prelinger and Megan Prelinger, and they even gave me a short tour of what the library had to offer.

It’s a small library, but lots of interesting things to look at, especially for a map lover like myself. I started in the books section, looking at all the books related to geography, cartography, maps, and then proceeded to my favorite section – actual MAPS! I moved over to this section of the library and chose the box labeled “Europe”.  I think I could sit there for hours just browsing through the boxes and boxes of maps they’ve amassed. What’s most interesting is that the maps come from so many different time periods. I loved all the vintage maps, and seeing maps from places no longer – like Yugoslavia, but also seeing maps that didn’t have locations and places that we know today.

There were flight schedules for Europe, train schedules for Europe, maps of countries, maps of cities, and even old subway maps. I felt like I sat there for hours unfolding each of the maps and taking tons of photos, but realized by the time we left that I had only gone through ONE of several boxes for Europe. Looking forward to my next visit there – perhaps I’ll be able to make it through more than one box of maps!

I highly recommend a visit! Rick Prelinger and Megan Prelinger are very friendly and answered all of my questions, and they’ve put together a great collection. The adventure inspires me to organize my own collection of maps!

Library Hours:
Wednesdays, 1 p.m. – 8 p.m
301 8th Street
(corner of Folsom Street)
Room 215
San Francisco, CA

Here are LOTS of photos from my visit – enjoy!!


IMG_3228 IMG_3227 IMG_3075 IMG_3076 IMG_3082 IMG_3088 IMG_3092 IMG_3097 IMG_3098 IMG_3101 IMG_3103 IMG_3105 IMG_3106 IMG_3111 IMG_3113 IMG_3114 IMG_3115 IMG_3131 IMG_3132 IMG_3134 IMG_3136 IMG_3137 IMG_3138 IMG_3140 IMG_3141 IMG_3147 IMG_3150 IMG_3151 IMG_3154 IMG_3156 IMG_3158 IMG_3162 IMG_3165 IMG_3166 IMG_3167 IMG_3169 IMG_3171 IMG_3172 IMG_3173 IMG_3174 IMG_3176 IMG_3177 IMG_3178 IMG_3184 IMG_3187 IMG_3189 IMG_3192 IMG_3195 IMG_3196 IMG_3198 IMG_3199 IMG_3200 IMG_3201 IMG_3206 IMG_3210 IMG_3215 IMG_3218 IMG_3220 IMG_3224

Let me know if you have any questions!




  1. that sounds like a really cool place. Maps are awesome. =D

  2. Wow! I will have to check this out! Hope you are having a great day honey. Thanks for vntsiiig today and commenting on my Marilyn post. You should come back and check out the giveaway my friend Karyn at French Charming is hosting! Kori xoxo

  3. Well I guess I don’t have to spend the weekend figuring this one out!

  4. That’s an inventive answer to an interesting question

  5. It’s good to get a fresh way of looking at it.

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