The Sierra Club has maintained a library since its beginnings more than a century ago. The Club's first library was based on a small collection of mountaineering literature that served John Muir and other mountaineers at the turn of the twentieth century.
In San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, this early collection was destroyed, but the library was soon reestablished through an outpouring of donations. From those small beginnings the library has grown to accommodate the evolving needs of Sierra Club members. As the Club grew, so did its library. It now holds a significant conservation and mountaineering collection. More information about our traditional collections (including catalog search) can be found here.
In 1965, the Library was dedicated as a memorial to William E. Colby [pictured], the first secretary of the Sierra Club and a director for forty-nine years.
As a reference library, ours is a non-circulating, research collection. Sierra Club members and the public are welcome to use the library as visitors, by appointment. In our reading room at the Club's San Francisco headquarters, we provide on-site access to our extensive collection of books, periodicals, mountaineering journals, government documents, historic photographs, slides, maps and memorabilia. Researchers who are unable to visit our library may search the online catalog for our traditional collections. We respond to reference inquiries regarding Sierra Club publications and history, and will provide photocopies of specific articles if needed.
In the 21st century, the Colby Library has expanded online. Our mission is to bring more great content from the Club's website to the library's holdings. Find out more about the offerings we have online here.
Photo: William E. Colby by Cedric Wright. Sierra Club/Colby Library collection; all rights reserved.