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Was My Uncle Really a Bigamist? Finding the Truth on Ancestry

He was a bigamist and he had one wife in California and another in Rhode Island. The odd thing is they knew about one another, but never divorced him. They were good Italians and their Catholic religion played a big part in their decision not to seek divorce.

During this time of sheltering in place, seeking out our ancestors and learning about who they were is a worthy use of time. Not only will you be inspired by their lives, but you will also find fun facts, where your ancestors came from, and much more that influences who you are. During the sheltering in place mandate, the Mechanics’ subscription to the Ancestry Library Edition is now available for use from home.  (Normally, MI members must access it at the Mechanics’ Institute Library.) You’ll just need to enter your last name and barcode number (the long number on the back of your MI Library card) to log in.

Find out more by accessing our Ancestry Library database: http://www.milibrary.org/research/databases.

The photo provided is the mother of Library Director, Deb Hunt, in approximately 1924.

Posted on May. 14, 2020 by Deborah Hunt

Mechanics’ Institute and Burning Man 2019

Artist Pam Ward used discarded MI books to create The Bards Branch, a whimsical sculpture that was a 2019 Black Rock City Honoraria Recipient.

Here is what the artist shared with us about this lovely sculpture:

“It was a huge success and loved by all book lovers and participants. We met so many cool people who told us stories of their favorite books.  What I loved was hearing people reading through the gramophone from the armchair to the ground. Father reading to his child the little prince. Friends reading spiritual teaching to their friends. A group of 100 wizards and gamers rocking up on a treasure hunt (organizers read all the titles the day before and made a clue with the book titles, then hid three the clues in the tree!). Many families and children were always at the piece, which warmed my heart. Beautiful violin players. So many things! 

On Friday, we gifted the books to people and donated books to the Black Rock Library. Then the piece was lifted to The Folly to be transformed by fire. It was epic. 

Thank you to your team -- it could not have happened without your support and passion for books and imagination. You are official a part of The Bards Branch crew!”

(Photos used with artist’s permission. Credits: Photographer Jane Hu; Artist Pam Ward.)

Posted on Nov. 1, 2019 by Deborah Hunt

New Library Hours

Over the last two years, over two 6-month periods, we have tracked the number of members using the Mechanics' Institute Library after 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and found that Library usage drops dramatically during that last hour. Very few members used the Library after 8 p.m. during the last 6-month period (September 16, 2018 – March 15, 2019). Given low Library usage, we have decided to change our Monday through Thursday hours to 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The new hours:

  • will allow for better utilization of MI resources
  • will contribute to staff safety by allowing evening staff to go home earlier when public transit runs more frequently
  • still provide members 64 hours per week to enjoy the MI Library and all that it offers
  • go into effect May 1, 2019

Please let me know if you have questions.

Deb Hunt, Library Director, dhunt@milibrary.org

Posted on Apr. 16, 2019 by Deborah Hunt

You Can Help School Libraries Here in the Bay Area and Those Affected by the Paradise Fire

As you know, there was almost total destruction of the town of Paradise this past November. Most schools were destroyed along with their library collections. The public library is still standing, but the library collection is a total loss due to smoke damage. Under-resourced public school libraries in the Bay Area also need books for their students. You can make a difference by donating new and gently used books for toddlers, children and young adults to Project Cicero Bay Area. We will have drop-off boxes on both floors of the Mechanics’ Institute Library from Monday, February 25 until Friday noon, March 8. In 2018, MI Members and friends donated 200 new and gently used books. 

Posted on Feb. 20, 2019 by Deborah Hunt

Why You Should Delete Online Accounts You No Longer Use & How to Do It

I recently read an informative article entitled “How to Delete Online Accounts You No Longer Need” from the very reliable Consumer Reports. If you are like most people, over the years, you have created online accounts, many of which you no longer use. Recently, I received an email from Flickr notifying me of “Important updates to your Flickr account”. I had completely forgotten I had a Flickr account.  Unfortunately, I used an old yahoo.com email account to register for my Flickr account. I do not use the Yahoo account anymore and cannot remember the password. I also cannot authenticate my Yahoo email with an obsolete phone number on file at Yahoo to get a text recovery number. I tried via another current email for authentication, but the message never came through. I now have these two accounts floating around out there that I cannot close. That has spurred me on to do a more extensive inventory of my obsolete accounts and delete them, where possible.

With all the recent data breaches and revelations about privacy on popular websites, it is important to delete unused accounts. This article has links and instructions to specific sites, including Blogger and Google+, and additional articles on online privacy and security. How many obsolete accounts do you have?

Posted on Jan. 8, 2019 by Deborah Hunt

Google is a Search Engine, Not a Lie Detector

With Google easily at hand, fewer people ask trained, professional librarians for research assistance. Librarians curate the information they provide with unbiased and vetted results that are relevant and current. Whether you are researching the side effects of a newly prescribed medication or want to know if the Tesla Model S has a faulty autopilot system, our 7 professional librarians can assist you.

The tools available to librarians go far beyond Google. We will work with you to provide the targeted and relevant knowledge that you seek. Stop by the 3rd floor Reference Desk Mondays-Saturdays between 10-3, call us at 415-393-0102 or email reference@milibrary.org and we will work with you to find the information you need.

Posted on May. 29, 2018 by Deborah Hunt

Service Hours Update for Reference and Research Help

Reference assistance is available to all MI members. Professional librarians provide many levels of research support, from answering research questions, assisting with database searching, and help finding materials that meet member interests. 

Beginning May 9th, our professional librarians will staff the 3rd floor Reference Desk from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. You are welcome to stop by during those times to ask a question in person. You may also call us at 415-393-0102 or send an email to reference@milibrary.org. If the desk is not staffed by a reference librarian when you call or email us, we will get back to you when a librarian is available.

As always, you may check books out and get the benefit of circulation services at the 2nd and 3rd floor desks during all open hours. If you have any questions about these updates, please let us know.

Posted on May. 3, 2018 by Deborah Hunt

Mechanics’ Institute Library Treasures

As I interact with members on a daily basis, I often hear how grateful they are for a welcoming library and open stacks where they can browse, find comfortable chairs for reading and space to write or work. They appreciate our blazing fast and secure Internet, helpful staff and access to professional librarians for answers to their research questions.

The Library’s collection of some 160,000 print volumes, DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, tens of thousands of ebooks, emagazines, ecomics and eaudiobooks, reflects the reading tastes of MI members over the past 164 years. That pursuit continues as our professional librarians gauge member interest and scrupulously select titles added to our collection. We also welcome member purchase suggestions

The Mechanics’ Institute is not a research library, at least not in the same way that other institutions that collect primary source materials are; but, as one of the oldest continuously operating libraries in California, with a justifiable reputation as a real reader’s collection, our bookshelves hold incomparable riches. All of us, whether we’re writers or readers, have stories about that accidental but fortuitous discovery on the shelf, the hidden gem sitting next to the book you were actually looking for. It’s the best kind of serendipity.

Posted on Apr. 12, 2018 by Deborah Hunt

Help School and Classroom Libraries Recover from the Northern California Fires

Be part of Project Cicero Bay Area!  The Mechanics' Institute Library is a proud participant in Project Cicero, and we need your help! Please donate new or gently used children’s and young adult books at the Library 2nd and 3rd floor service desks from Monday, March 5 through Thursday, March 8. (No textbooks, adult books or out of date nonfiction/reference books.) For more information please visit the Project Cicero (http://www.projectcicerobayarea.org/) website.


Project Cicero is a volunteer-run, annual children’s book drive designed to create and supplement classroom libraries in under-resourced Bay Area and public schools and this year is being expanded to benefit fire ravaged schools up north.

On March 10, hundreds of Bay Area and Northern California public school teachers will come to a San Francisco location overflowing with children’s and young adult books donated to Project Cicero during this annual book drive. Make a difference!

Posted on Feb. 22, 2018 by Deborah Hunt

Free Online Genealogy Records by Location – Good Places to Search First or When You Hit a Dead End

My family has only been in the United States for 3 generations and I’ve been able to find a lot of information on them in U.S. census records, county vital statistics and other records. However, when it comes to going back to records in Italy, I often am challenged finding records that will provide birth, marriage and death records due to the flowery writing of the 19th century, records that were destroyed in WWII, or other issues.

Online Genealogy Records by Location is a free and easily accessible treasure trove of records both in the U.S. and worldwide.  Each country page has links to search tips, strategies, record types, maps and local research resources in addition to military records, vital records and so much more. I can see I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the Italy page and perusing its links.

Want to learn more? I’ll be teaching about this resource and others, focusing on our Ancestry Library database (free to Mechanics’ Institute members) on Thursday, January 25, from 6-7 p.m. Please register here:  “Grow Your Family Tree” and join MI members and me as we explore how to use these resources to add branches to your family tree.

Posted on Jan. 2, 2018 by Deborah Hunt