About the Library

The William E. Colby Memorial Library supports the Sierra Club’s mission to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet by preserving our past to better inform our future. The library documents and provides access to our historical and special collections for the benefit of members and staff, as well as the public and research community.

The Sierra Club has maintained a library since its beginnings more than 125 years ago. Our first library was based on a small collection of mountaineering publications and was destroyed by the fire that followed San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake. The library was soon reestablished through an outpouring of donations from Sierra Club members.

In 1965, the library was dedicated as a memorial to William E. Colby, the first secretary of the Sierra Club and a member of the board of directors for 49 years. Colby not only worked on the Sierra Club's earliest legislative campaigns but also was responsible for starting our first official Outings program in 1901.

As a reference library, ours is a noncirculating, research collection. Sierra Club members and the public are welcome to use the library by appointment. In our reading room at the Sierra Club's headquarters in Oakland, California, we provide on-site access to our extensive collection of books, periodicals, government documents, historic photographs, slides, maps, and memorabilia. A professional reference librarian and archivist are on staff to assist with inquiries and research. For inquiries about the collections or Sierra Club history, please fill out the online Reference Request form. Researchers who are unable to visit our library may search our online catalog.

For more information contact the Colby Library at colby.library@sierraclub.org.