The Presidio Branch was established in 1898 and was the sixth branch of the San Francisco Public Library system. It opened at its current location when the current building was completed in 1921. The building, designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, is Italian-Renaissance in style and was built with $83,228 in Carnegie funds. The building is surrounded by a lovely park. Over the years, the building has housed various San Francisco Public Library services including the Communication Center, the Library for the Blind and Print Handicapped, the Performing Arts Library, the International Languages Collection, and public meeting rooms. A special historical feature of the Presidio Branch is its connection to the writer Richard Brautigan who, in 1970, used the branch as the setting for his whimsical novel, The Abortion: An Historical Romance. In this novel, the branch functions as a repository for any unpublished manuscript that an author would like to place on its shelves.
The newly renovated branch opened on March 26, 2011. The renovation project was designed by architects Field Paoli and Joseph Chow & Associates at a cost of $4.1 million. Page and Turnbull, Inc., served as historic preservation consultants. The renovation was carried out by Roebuck Construction. The new branch includes new accessible restrooms, improved lighting and power, exterior stair repairs, exterior façade brick and terra cotta restoration, more stroller parking, an improved downstairs program room, a new major retaining wall, and a new sidewalk-installed 24 hour book return. The renovation concentrated on complying with current code requirements and remodeling the interior while preserving the historic character of the building. The building was designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver or greater certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
An interior view of the Presidio Branch in 1970