Not So Ephemeral Library

Prelinger Library
Prelinger Library, photo courtesy of meetar on Flickr

{ Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day.}


The Prelinger Library
is an independent research library located in San Francisco’s South-of-Market neighborhood. It is open to anyone for research, reading, inspiration, and reuse.

Founded in 2004 by Megan Prelinger and Rick Prelinger, the library is a vast collection of the most fragile of artifacts – 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books. Never intended for longevity, these, mostly image-heavy pieces of history are carefully picked and preserved for free perusal, copying, and in many cases – scanned and available for downloading.

The Library is truly a local community project, consisting of donated materials, being sustained with help of volunteers and collaborating with local artists, crafters, writers, and activists.

By definition, ephemera is not a long-lasting media, which makes it much harder to preserve. However, proper handling and storage techniques can make a world of difference and allow you to enjoy collectible (rare, interesting or sentimental) ephemera pieces for a very long time. As with any artifact, the less direct handling – the better. Cotton gloves should be used to avoid transfer of harmful fingerprints. Clear archival quality enclosures will keep the fragile paper safe from ripping and environmental dangers, such as humidity, dust and dirt. And last but not least, archival quality acid-free boxes or albums will protect your treasures for long-term storage.¬†University Products’ website has an entire section dedicated exclusively to products designed to protect your Ephemera collection.