What is Ourshelves?
A curated lending library that uses its dues and donations to build free libraries for people in need.
What does lending library mean?
Public libraries have been governmentally regulated for only a hundred years or so, and before that there were lending or resource libraries. Lending (or subscription) libraries allowed people to take out books for a small fee. Resource libraries allowed people to view the books and documents inside the library itself, also for a fee. Public libraries today are a combination of the two, and are swiftly losing their governmental support.
Why not use the public library for free?
Most residents can. There’s a beautiful one a few blocks away. It’s fiction section is not as carefully curated as ours is, nor as internationally focused. Here at Ourshelves, local authors host shelves with the books they wrote and the books they love. Ourshelves offers personalized recommendations to members and visitors alike. It is always sliding-scale. If you can’t pay, don’t. Perhaps you can volunteer, or donate a book off our Wish List. Either way, we’re glad to share books we love with people who are interested, in a more intimate setting than the public library. Our hope is to make great literature available for all. All member dues and donations go toward building free libraries in shelters where people don’t have access to the public library.
Who doesn’t have access to the public library?
Women and children in domestic violence emergency shelters. People without proof of residency; non-legalized citizens, temporary visitors, the homeless. Many seniors and/ or people with physical disabilities. People who live in assisted housing and are restricted to group outings or staff permissions. People in long-term physical rehabilitation.
Where does Ourshelves have shelter libraries?
the Riley Center - emergency shelter and support for women and children with domestic violence trauma. We bring children, young adult, fiction and support materials in Chinese, Spanish and English to those inside the shelters.
We are working on libraries for:
Casa Quezeda – A new 50+ longterm shelter here in the Mission, for people who have been on the street for over twenty years.
Crescent Manor – Senior and disabled housing in the Tenderloin.
We would like to build in a youth home and an immigration resource center next, and are always open to suggestions and donations.
Can I donate books?
Yes! We always need more books. We have a Wish List with specific books we’re looking for. Soon we’ll have the shelter libraries’ wish lists up there as well.
Spanish and Chinese language books
large format books
young adult books
Anything. What we can’t use here or at a shelter, we’ll share with the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. We’re all about sharing.
Can I donate money?
Absolutely. We are a Member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting services to artists. Tax-deductible donations can be made in cash or check (please make check out to Intersection for the Arts, with Ourshelves in the byline), or here.
How can I volunteer?
Please send a resume and brief description of what you’d like to do at Ourshelves to firstname.lastname@example.org. The resume and info need not be career-oriented, but based on what s/he thinks they would like to offer Ourshelves and its programs, and what s/he’d like to get out of the process.
When are you open?
12 to 6pm - Wednesday through Friday
12 to 7pm – Weekends
Member’s have the curator’s email address and phone number. They are welcome to set up an appointment any day between eleven and eight p.m., as long as they give a bit of warning.
Do you have events?
Once a month we host Excerpts, an open mic for writers and members to share five minute excerpts from their favorite literature or poetry. No one reads their own work. Beer and wine by donation, a bottle of whiskey on stage for those willing to share their favorite pieces with us.
How long has the library been open?
Since July 13th, 2011.
Who’s idea was this?
The curator’s, Kristina Kearns, though a lot of different people encouraged her and helped put it together. It’s an experimental project, so everyone who spends time in the space – whether member, donor or visitor – plays a part.
How many members do you have?
Nearly 200 people have borrowed in the past year.
We are a Member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting services to artists. Visit www.theintersection.org.