Main Library Collections & Centers

The San Francisco Public Library is a primary source of information for those who live and work in San Francisco. The collections serve to enhance the cultural, literary, aesthetic and educational pursuits of all library users and are responsive to the needs and reflective of the diversity of the community.

The 1.3 million-plus holdings of the Main Library represent a range of popular-to-research-level books, magazines, newspapers, films, music, photographs, personal papers of local notables and other ephemera in a variety of formats such as print, compact disc, phonograph record, videos in DVD and VHS format, microfilm, and microfiche. As the oldest and largest public library in Northern California, the Main Library has significant resources that are unique and of continuing interest to the community, as well as core fiction and nonfiction materials for the whole library system. The bound periodical collection housed at the Main Library has over 10,000 titles and 500,000 retrospective bound volumes.

The collections represent the ethnic and cultural diversity and meet the educational levels of the people of this large metropolitan area, by offering materials that provide general coverage and understanding of a subject through current titles, best-sellers, encyclopedias, handbooks, historical surveys, periodicals and secondary works.

The Main Library also has in-depth, non-circulating subject collections in several defined areas: San Francisco history; gay and lesbian interest and archives; book arts; and government documents. These collections include current, retrospective and primary resource coverage. In order to make these materials more widely available and to preserve them, the Library is digitizing text and images from these collections.

The Main Library is a Federal depository library, responsible for providing free access to information produced by all three branches of the United States government; this responsibility influences the retention of materials. To support and assist other City & County of San Francisco agencies and the public, the Library retains all documents produced by the City & County of San Francisco.

The following descriptions of collections and centers explain in greater detail the Main Library's subject areas, as well as the community served.

San Francisco Public Library collections are organized by the Dewey Decimal Classification System. Most of the subject collections below encompass several Dewey categories.

Places in the Main Library from which to gain access to specific collections

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