Best Private Library San Francisco 2001 - The Mechanics' Institute Library
The Mechanics' Institute Library looks the way a library should look. It takes up two floors of the Mechanics' Institute building downtown, each floor tiered with a mezzanine or two of books on every conceivable subject. The setting is hushed, pristine, and ambient with brass rails, burnished wood, comfortable armchairs, and the pleasant smell of a used bookstore. In addition to the library's thousands of volumes (including several special-collection treasures), there are foreign and domestic periodicals, audiocassettes, DVDs, videos, and CDs for the borrowing. The library hosts exhibitions, lectures, poetry readings, reading groups, writers' workshops, and movie nights as well (last month's screening of Hitchcock's Notorious featured a chat with best-selling author and cinéaste David Thomson). Annual membership is $60 and includes free admission to many institute events. Nonmember tours are offered each Wednesday at noon.