Sunday, October 6, 2013

'Library Builder' Has the Best Job Ever

Megan Shaw Prelinger has the best job ever, according to ModCloth. Since 2010, ModCloth, an independent online retailer of vintage and vintage-inspired goods, has profiled women whose jobs many people envy. Prelinger is their latest pick.

Megan Shaw Prelinger shelving materials at her San Francisco library.
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Prelinger co-founded, with husband Rick, the Prelinger Library in San Francisco, California. The library houses an assortment of materials on a variety of topics, including agriculture, graphic arts, regional planning, history, women's studies, popular culture, crafts, immigration, education, activism, transportation, advertising, parenting, public health, and much, much more.

The library's holdings are culled from the Prelingers' personal collections, as well as from bookstores, junk stores, and materials that public and academic libraries had discarded. Books are also acquired from private dealers or are donated by visitors to the library. In addition to books, the library has zines, maps, pamphlets, government documents, and trade journals, among other items.
A visitor to the Prelinger Library becomes absorbed in a book.
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All of the materials in the Prelinger Library are arranged not by traditional library cataloging rules but based on Megan's own method. Talking to ModCloth, she said, "I just asked the question, 'What would an alternative research library look like? And what would research look like if it was as much fun as going on a field trip?' That impulse, the explorer impulse, led to a very basic idea to arrange the subjects as if they were in a landscape, as if you were walking through them, climbing them, or exploring through them."

Calling herself a "library builder," Prelinger likes the sense of exploration that her method of arrangement encourages. Others are enjoying it as well. Since its founding in 2004, the Prelinger Library has been attracting an increasing number of visitors, including artists, academics, and those who work at the nearby headquarters of ModCloth. "Meeting the community that comes to use the library, that's the highlight," Prelinger told ModCloth. "I feel like the process of community exchange and resource sharing is something you do from the heart. It's both a side effect of my main work as a historian, but it's also at the center of what's meaningful to me about the kind of work that we do."
A volunteer at Prelinger Library sorts through incoming materials.
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Truly a do-it-yourself operation, the Prelinger Library is open to the public every Wednesday from 1 to 8PM. It's also open two Sundays at least twice a month and offers limited off-hours appointments to visiting researchers who are unable to go to the library during regularly scheduled hours. Megan and Rick Prelinger run the library with the help of volunteers. Currently, there is no paid staff. The library is indeed a labor of love.

The Prelinger Library is located in Room 215 at 301 8th Street in San Francisco. If you're unable to visit in person, you can check out its collection online HERE.

To read the full ModCloth interview with Megan Shaw Prelinger, go to THIS LINK.

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