Mechanics’ Institute – Library and Chess Room

 July 5, 2016
Posted by jenn

Who knew this place existed, I certainly didn’t.  Located in the Financial District of SF the institute describes themselves:  “The Mechanics’ Institute is a leading cultural center that includes a vibrant library, a world-renowned chess program and a full calendar of engaging cultural events. Founded in 1854 to serve the educational and social needs of mechanics — artisans, craftsmen, and inventors — and their families, the Institute today is a favorite of avid readers, writers, downtown employees, chess players, and the 21st century nomadic worker. We are located in our 9-story landmark building in the Financial District of San Francisco at 57 Post Street”.

I really feel like I’ve been under a rock here. The institute offers a variety of activities and events:


Though initially a library dedicated to the mechanical arts, today’s library has materials in all subjects with special strengths in literature, fine and performing arts, history, philosophy, business, finance, and periodicals that are hard-to-find in electronic format. The latest best-sellers and films are also available, as is a rapidly growing audio-book, e-book, and music collection.

The Mechanics’ Institute prides itself on personal service and its dedication to the “intellectual growth of its members”. Members are encouraged to recommend materials for purchase, attend workshops, and participate in literature and film discussions groups. Currently there are five book discussion groups on a variety of genres and three writers’ groups offering peer-to-peer support, advice, and camaraderie.

Photograph of the second floor library


The Mechanics’ Institute hosts a diverse range of cultural events including author readings and conversations, lectures, writers’ workshops, technology classes, civic discussions, and community gatherings.

The CinemaLit Film Series presents 35 films a year featuring classic American, Retro and foreign films. The evening begins with introductions by prominent film critics, writers and reviewers with a lively discussion after each film. CinemaLit draws an, eclectic, diverse audience with many film buffs dedicated to our Friday night film salon.

Photograph of the chess room


The Mechanics’ Institute building houses the oldest continuously operating chess club in the United States. Many World Champions and other top players have visited the chess room from Emanuel Lasker to Wesley So. Grandmasters Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky, who learned the game at the Mechanics’ Institute as youngsters, represented the United States in the 2015 World Chess Team Championship.

Activities are offered for all levels of players from beginners to Grandmasters. Tournaments are the lifeblood of the Chess Room with weekend events and Tuesday Night Marathons the anchors.


Membership in the Mechanics’ Institute is open to the public. Membership offers the full services of the Library and Chess Room, along with free admittance or special member rates to special events, lectures, book discussion groups, classes, and other activities.

Events at the Mechanics’ Institute

Book Group Meetings – Non-Fiction Book Group – Online
Tuesday, July 05, 2016 – 12:00pm to 12:00pm

I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist

By Betty Halbreich

Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich is a true original, after nearly forty years as the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where she works with socialites, stars, and ordinary women off the street. Halbreich’s personal transformation from a cosseted young girl to a fearless truth teller is the greatest makeover of her career… Meticulous, impeccable, hardworking, elegant, and—most of all—delightfully funny, Halbreich’s memoir will appeal to those interested in fashion — and the subversion of fashion.

Members Only; Online Meetings
More information

No registration required.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016 – 7:00pm

Harold Norse Centennial Celebration

This series of centennial events sponsored by The Beat Museum held in San Francisco and Los Angeles offers a look back at Harold’s legacy as an unheralded voice in Beat poetry with panel discussions with writers and artists who knew him.

Members of Mechanics’ Institute Free
Members of The Beat Museum Free
Public $15
CinemaLit Films
Friday, July 08, 2016 – 6:00pm

Flying Down to Rio (1933)

July/August 2016 – Hot Summer Nights

This diverting, lightweight romantic comedy boasts an unforgettable airborne production number and the first screen pairing of Astaire and Rogers.

Members Free
Public $10 (suggested donation)
Book Group Meetings – Brown Bag Mystery Readers
Monday, July 11, 2016 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm

The Galton Case

Ross MacDonald

Almost twenty years have passed since Anthony Galton disappeared, along with a suspiciously streetwise bride and several thousand dollars of his family’s fortune. Now Anthony’s mother wants him back and has hired Lew Archer to find him. What turns up is a headless skeleton, a boy who claims to be Galton’s son, and a con game whose stakes are so high that someone is still willing to kill for them. Devious and poetic, The Galton Case displays MacDonald at the pinnacle of his form.

content courtesy of the publisher

Members Only; Free
More information

No registration required.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016 – 10:00am to 4:00pm

Tech Office Hours

Reserve a half hour one-on-one appointment with a librarian to work on questions regarding your email, ebook readers, making the best use of the Library’s online features, safely managing your social media accounts, or any other computer- or technology-related questions.

Members Only; Free
And there’s much, much more.. Check it OUT.