San Francisco Public Library Announces Retirement of City Archivist Susan Goldstein


Goldstein retires after 28 years of service leading the San Francisco History Center and Book Arts and Special Collections at the Main Library

SAN FRANCISCO, June 26, 2023 – On June 28, 1995, roughly a year before the grand opening of the new Main Library in San Francisco’s Civic Center, Susan Goldstein began her career as the City Archivist, ushering in a new era of professional archival management and public access. For 28 years, she shepherded the City and County’s many historic treasures, including such gems as Harvey Milk’s and San Francisco mayoral papers, housed at the San Francisco History Center. On June 30, 2023, San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) will say goodbye to this dedicated colleague and public servant as she embarks on her next great adventure, retirement.

“On behalf of the residents of San Francisco, I want to thank Susan Goldstein for her incredible service preserving our City’s history,” says Mayor London N. Breed. “Her commitment to this work will make it possible for future generations to learn and appreciate the people, places and events that have shaped our heritage and San Francisco into the great City it is today.”

According to President of the Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin. “It cannot be understated the influence Susan Goldstein has had on scholarship about San Francisco. Thanks to her careful preservation of our archives, journalists, filmmakers, academics and authors have been able to share our many stories, lessons-learned and triumphs with the world. Like the wonderous articles and objects she has shepherded all these years, she too is a treasure.”  

During Goldstein’s tenure SFPL dramatically improved public access to its historic collections by implementing state-of-the-art manuscript finding aids, joining the Online Archives of California, hiring a team of archivists and digitizing original materials. She is credited for opening the History Center doors wide, inviting the public and school classes to explore the collections and establishing an internship program for library students. Collaboration is the hallmark of her career; she networked with historical societies and neighborhood associations throughout the City and teamed up with community and university partners on a wide range of grant projects to expand access to the collections. She successfully solicited and received collections from Mayors Jordan, Agnos, Brown, Newsom and Lee, the Board of Supervisors and a wide range of City and County departments.  

“It’s the end of an era,” states City Librarian Michael Lambert. “Susan Goldstein brought an inclusive, social history lens to the curation of our treasured San Francisco History Center collections, and we are all the richer for it. Her legacy will live on in perpetuity. She has been a tremendous advocate for the preservation of the City and County of San Francisco’s archives and will be dearly missed.”

Other career highlights include the creation of an innovative crowd-sourced photo archive, Shades of San Francisco, which includes personal family photographs that reflect and celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Bayview, Western Addition, Mission, Ocean View, Merced, Ingleside and Sunset neighborhoods as well as our LGBTQIA and Filipino communities. She was instrumental in securing a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities to establish an archive of collections related to the early AIDS epidemic in collaboration with the University of San Francisco and the GLBT Historical Society. She also won grants to preserve the work of the groundbreaking Filipino arts nonprofit, Kularts, and to digitize two historic African American newspapers, The Hunter’s Point Beacon and The Spokesman, and the Bay Area Times/Coming Up, a LGBTQ newspaper started in 1978. During the Covid-19 shutdown, she established the Covid-19 Community Time Capsule to document the pandemic throughout the City through donations from individuals and City departments, including artwork from the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Covid Command Center Artist-in-Residence program.

“I’m proud to leave San Francisco with a professional, well-run archives program that is used by our citizens as well as people from around the world,” shared Goldstein. “I’ll miss interacting with City agencies, organizations and individuals that share their histories with us.  It’s an incredible feeling to receive a new collection and see what it reveals about San Francisco and think about how it will be used by future researchers. It’s heartening to think that after my time, San Francisco Public Library will remain a repository for collections that document our unique government and community history and memory.”

“On behalf of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, I want to express my deep appreciation to Susan Goldstein for her dedication, commitment and expertise in ensuring that the City’s collection is managed with the highest standards and accessible to the public,” stated Commission President Connie Wolf. “Thank you for all that you have done to protect the history of our City.”

The following is a collection of quotes from notable locals sharing their gratitude to Goldstein for her exceptional work: 

From David Talbot’s book, Season of the Witch: “Public libraries, like all institutions by and for the people in America these days, are endangered treasures. I relied enormously in my research on the dedicated and deeply informed staff of the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center. Library archivist Susan Goldstein and her staff have a hidden empire of San Francisco history at their fingertips, and they bring it to life each day for numerous scholars and curious citizens. The serene and well-run History Center, on the sixth floor of the San Francisco Public Library’s main branch, is the critical first stop for anyone trying to get a feel for this city’s kaleidoscopic past."

“Your passion and dedication in sharing your collection allowed us to create a more dynamic and richer experience of turn of the century San Francisco.” - James Q. Chan, Emmy-nominated director and producer of the documentary Plague at the Golden Gate.

“It has been such a pleasure to work with you and your SFPL colleagues as you enthusiastically provided knowledge and access to San Francisco and other residents through the years as City Archivist. You are always open to community input. In particular, I appreciate your leadership in engaging the Filipino and Filipino American community to see themselves as part of the SFPL.”- Author Juanita Tamayo.

June 26, 2023