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The Most Obscure Secret Library in San Francisco: The Whybrary

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In The Mission, situated on the corner of 14th Street at Woodward, you may see a small pink neon “why?” sign hung in the window of an unassuming apartment building. Like a bat signal, the “why?” sign is a not-so-subtle sign to say you’ve reached the library. To enter into one of the most strange, original and inspiring library’s hidden in San Francisco, you’ll have to attend an event or be welcomed via a special invitation.

The Whybrary is most certainly the best kept secret libraries in San Francisco. It’s filled with thousands of books specifically tailored to esoteric topics such as mysticism, consciousness, psychedelics, religion, cults, conspiracies, the paranormal, cryptozoology, bizarre science, counterculture & much more.

A cozy scene inside The Whybrary

Last weekend, my friend and I visited the library to see what it was all about. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the space. The Whybrary is in a live/work space at street level along 14th Street. The ceilings are high with original details and bookshelves filled with books line the walls and act as partitions separating the live space from the library space. In the center of the room, you find a cozy space perfect for curling up with one of the books off the shelf.

The “Why” sign acts almost like a bat signal

Beyond the array of strange and wonderful books, there are collections of knick knacks that take up nearly every other nook and cranny. From collections of vintage Santas to beautiful glittering altars filled with little plastic toys, if you’re not pulled in by the books then you would certainly find yourself mesmerized by all of the bits and bobs surrounding you.

Personally, I had a hard time focusing on the books the entire time I was in The Whybrary. There’s just so much to see and its fun to explore the space. At one point my attention shifted from a collection of guitars to a collection of children’s books and then quickly over to a collection of found objects. My eyes darted from left to right the entire time I was inside the space. So much to look at, so little time.

Here I am happily surrounded by instruments in one corner of the library

How did The Whybrary get started?

Owner and curator Matthew Souzis has been collecting books and found objects since he was a child. Over time, he would find himself gravitating towards esoteric books that he found interesting. According to Souzis, most of the collection was found on his walks. Many times, he would find a book on the street as a free curb score. Sometimes, a friend would gift him something or he’d find it at a book store.

A common question he gets is: “Have you read all of these books?” The answer is no, if you were wondering. Souzis’ reasoning is that many of these books are reference books and aren’t necessarily written to be read from front to back. However, he clearly has extensive knowledge in most topics within the library. He gave my friend and I some really interesting facts about The Masonic Society when we showed interest in the secret society books.

Sandwich kneels as she explores the collection of obscure books in The Whybrary

Can you check any of the books out like a public library?

The short answer is, not at the moment. Souzis is looking into how they might open up the possibility that someone could take a book and bring it back. Many of these books are vintage, rare, and hard to find. With so many of them being unique finds from the streets of San Francisco, it’s best to keep the book available for visitors versus allowing the book to never be seen again.

The library has labels to help orient you – this section is for the Kook Books

Does it cost anything to visit the library?

Right now, the library is donation based. This isn’t your typical library by any means. Most ways to visit are free but you are encouraged to donate to help support The Whybrary. This is a passion project which turned into a massive library of amazing books. You can also book an Airbnb Experience to hire Souzis for a visit. I would suggest reaching out to Souzis directly on any of the platforms below if you’d like more information.

When we were visiting the library last weekend, we did go through the fortune telling experience and I highly recommend it. I won’t give too many personal details as to what I learned while we went through my experience but I can tell you I learned a lot and left with an official one-sheet divination record which included notes and details about the reading so that I could take it home and continue to reflect on what I learned.

I’ve had some other experiences similar to this. I really enjoyed the way that Souzis really connected with me during the reading and I did come away with food for thought.

Support The Whybrary here:

NEW! Sunday Salons at the Whybrary
(Free tickets via Eventbrite)

The Whybrary Airbnb Experience
Book an “Enlightened Fortune-Telling & Occult Library-Museum Tour” with owner and curator Matthew Souzis.

Whybrary Fundraiser

The Whybrary Patreon

How can you visit The Whybrary?

Souzis is working to add more experiences and salons in the library to offset the cost of the space. Right now he has Sunday salons where he will discuss various esoteric topics as well as a fortune telling Airbnb Experience in the link above.

Where to Find The Whybrary:
IG: @thewhybrarysf

Collection of tiny books inside San Francisco’s Whybrary

NOTE: All Images are owned by Broke-Ass Stuart and were taken by the article author, Katy Atchison.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.