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How You Can Help

Dear Friends:

All of us at Mechanics’ Institute send our heartfelt gratitude and best wishes to you - our members and greater family. Since the building closures and other ramifications of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), you’ve been on our minds, and we care deeply about how this health crisis may be affecting you and your loved ones. We hope you all are staying safe and healthy.

A venerable part of San Francisco’s cultural and intellectual life since 1854, Mechanics’ Institute may have its doors temporarily closed, but we have created robust virtual platforms for our author, film, chess, and writing and library events. Milibrary.org offers a gateway to the MI community through these programs, as well as through electronic access to a bounty of books, music, news, and research. During this time of sheltering-in-place and social distancing, our commitment to meeting the needs of our members remains paramount.

And yet, MI is not unaffected, as the coronavirus impacts us all. Since membership dues cover just a fraction of the library and programming expenses, the downturn in other income has negatively affected our operations at a time when, more than ever, we need to provide – and grow – our virtual services and programs.

This is a challenging time for all of us, and if you are in a position to help MI sustain our ability to offer our services, we would greatly appreciate your support. Gifts of all sizes are most welcome, and will go a long way toward ensuring MI’s long-term program quality, library services, and viability.

Donating is easy. Please click here to access our donation page. Your gifts are fully tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. A check can also be made payable to “Mechanics’ Institute” and mailed to:

Mechanics’ Institute

57 Post Street, 5th floor

San Francisco, CA 94104

Thank you very much! We look forward to reopening our doors and welcoming you - our cherished members and supporters - back to our beautiful home in the heart of San Francisco.



Kimberly Scrafano                                            Lindsey Crittenden

Executive Director                                            President of the Board


P.S. Double your gift: many employers match their employees’ gifts to nonprofits, often on a dollar-for-dollar basis. If applicable, please check with your employer’s HR department for details. Completing a short form is typically all that is required.

Posted on May. 28, 2020 by Kimberly Scrafano

Extended Closure FAQ






Dear Members and Friends,

We want to thank you for your understanding and patience as we all continue to adapt to COVID-19 and its impact on our services and programs at Mechanics’ Institute (MI). The State of California and the City and County of San Francisco ‘shelter in place’ orders bring a host of challenges to our work, but, as you may be aware, our 166-year history makes us no stranger to hard times. The Mechanics’ Institute has withstood the City’s toughest moments, such as the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, the 1918 Influenza pandemic, and the North Bay fires, as well as other challenges. As always, we are here for you, and we are doing what we can to serve our members while the Institute is closed.

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long will the Institute (including the library, chess room, and events) be closed?

Per the Shelter in Place Order, the Mechanics’ Institute will remain closed until further notice. We will follow national, state, and local directives and keep you apprised on our reopening date.

What resources can I access while the Mechanics’ Institute is closed?

MI has a number of online resources available for our members and are exploring additional ways to share our services.

The Library's abundant digital offerings, including the latest  eBookseAudiobookseMagazines  and tens of thousands of magazine articles, financial information and more can be found in our  research databases  tab on the website. These are available 24/7.

We are also working on plans for online book groups, classes, and writers’ events.

The Chess Club is hosting regular events and classes online. Here is how you can learn more about their programs:

Tournaments: Using Chess.com as our platform, we hold regular weekly events free of charge. These events are designed to keep our chess community together while also bringing in newer players for socializing, competition, and just plain fun. To join our chess events, you must have a Chess.com username and then request to join our online chess club here.

To see our schedule please visit the chess club website  here.

To receive regular notifications of our events, sign up  here.

Please note that you can only start registering for an event an hour prior to the start. You must log in to Chess.com and choose live chess. If you experience any trouble, please email us at chessroom@milibrary.org.

Classes: We are now offering online instruction for our scholastic players. These small group classes of up to eight (8) students are designed for beginners who are new to tournaments up to and including players who are rated around 700. To learn more about our online class offerings, click here.

Our Events department is currently exploring ways to offer online programming and should have something to present to our members shortly.

What if my items are due during the closure? Will I accrue late fees?

No, you will not accrue late fees during the closure. All materials due from March 14, 2020 through April 30, 2020 are now due on May 15, 2020. If our library is closed past this date, we will adjust our due date accordingly, giving at least one week after our opening for due date extension.

Can I drop off my materials in the MI lobby book drop?

Due to staffing limitations as a result of the ‘shelter in place' order, we have had to close our book drop temporarily. We will let you know when it reopens. In the meantime, all due dates for your borrowed materials have been extended.

What if I have some materials on hold waiting for pick up?

We will extend the period that all items remain on hold so that you have plenty of time to pick them up after we reopen. Please disregard the Pick-Up by Date listed in your hold notice.

My MI membership card is about to expire. How can I renew it?

MI memberships with expiration dates during the ‘shelter in place’ order will be extended to the end of our closure. We will reach back out regarding renewals once we have reopened.

Additional questions:

If you have any questions about your library account or how to access digital resources, please email reference@milibrary.org or call 415-393-0102. We will respond to inquiries as soon as possible.

If you have questions about our chess club or would like to join an online tournament please email chessroom@milibrary.org

If you have questions about your membership, please email  membership@milibrary.org

Thank you for your support and understanding. We are looking forward to welcoming you back through our doors when we reopen.



Kimberly Scrafano

Executive Director


Posted on Mar. 27, 2020 by Kimberly Scrafano

Mechanics' Institute Closure & COVID-19 Response

Dear Members and Friends:

I know this has been a very challenging time, and things are changing rapidly in the community regarding responses to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In the last few days, local educational institutions, museums, and public libraries have closed. In an effort to protect you and those in our community, Mechanics' Institute (MI) will close our library, chess room, and meeting rooms effective 6pm on Friday, March 13, 2020. We will remain closed through April 7, 2020.

This is not what we had hoped would happen, but the progression of the COVID-19 in the community needs to be curtailed. Therefore, we are relying on the recommendations from local, state, and national public health experts. We are following public health recommendations, as well as the best practices established by similar institutions. Please note that we will be taking this opportunity, before we reopen, to conduct a thorough deep cleaning.

I know a number of you work closely with other members and attendees in groups, and we encourage you to stay as connected as you can through online and other resources. In addition, you can access MI online materials through our website. Furthermore, given this development, we will waive all late fees for materials due during this time of closure.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you very much.


Kimberly Scrafano

Executive Director

Posted on Mar. 13, 2020 by Kimberly Scrafano

MI's Response to the Coronavirus

Dear Members and Friends:

I wanted to share our response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Given the developments in the community regarding COVID-19, Mechanics' Institute (MI) has decided to cancel all MI programs, classes, events, and meetings through Sunday, March 29, 2020. The intent is to reschedule most of these activities as soon as possible. The library, chess room, and MI building will remain open during our regular hours.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we continue to negotiate and develop reasonable strategies to deal with this new reality in San Francisco right now. This is a very challenging and rather unprecedented development in the community, and is likely the first time any of us have had to reorganize our lives around a public health crisis of this magnitude. We hope that keeping our library and chess room open will help provide a place of respite and community for you, particularly during this time when precautions can create feelings of isolation and disconnection. We do ask that you keep in mind prevention recommendations when using these shared spaces, however, and encourage you to follow public health protocols, including washing hands frequently, staying home when not feeling well, and practicing 'social distancing' (i.e. staying about four feet from other folks).

We are canceling all onsite writing and chess classes, tours, workshops, chess tournaments, author and film events, and book and writing groups through March 29. Our intention is that these will be rescheduled for a later date when available. We will reassess any changes that need to take place regarding our programming from March 30 onward as we learn more about the progress of COVID-19 and the community response. The only program that will continue until further notice is our scholastic chess at local schools since most school districts have deemed enrichment classes 'essential' services. If you have a child in one of these classes, please note that MI will continue these school classes with appropriate precautions and take our guidance about postponement and cancellations from the schools and districts themselves.

Please remember that these precautions at MI are being implemented out of an abundance of caution and care for you and your loved ones. As you likely know from stories of those directly impacted, even just one individual getting sick can be catastrophic for the person, their family and friends, and the community-at-large. This is particularly true given the estimated contagion rate and current burden on our healthcare system. It is our hope that these temporary cancellations can contribute to slowing some of the spread of COVID-19 so that our healthcare systems have adequate time and resources to respond. The sooner this illness becomes more contained, the sooner we can restart our programming and events.

We appreciate your cooperation. If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me. Thank you very much.


Kimberly Scrafano, Executive Director

Posted on Mar. 11, 2020 by Kimberly Scrafano