A library of unpublished manuscripts

An architectural rendering of the renovated Presidio Branch Library.

In its literary star turn, the Presidio Branch Library, at 3150 Sacramento Street, was transformed into a fictional repository for unpublished manuscripts placed on the shelves at all hours of the day and night directly by the writers themselves.

Yet except for one easily overlooked display case near the checkout desk, there is no evidence the library was used regularly by noted Bay Area writer Richard Brautigan and incorporated into his novel, The Abortion.

That may change now that the historic Carnegie library, which has been serving local readers since 1921, is about to be remade. Planning is in the final stages for a $2.4 million renovation of the library.

The author on the steps of the Presidio branch library.

Branch librarian Marjorie Brean is determined that Brautigan, a former neighbor, will be appropriately honored in the renovated library.

“It’s very special,” she says. “We can’t let that just evaporate into history.”

In the years since Brautigan’s novel was published in 1970, there has been a regular stream of letters from readers of The Abortion asking if there really is a library at 3150 Sacramento Street, and if it really does accept unpublished manuscripts. Some even send a manuscript, although the novel makes it clear the manuscripts must be brought in person by the author.

Now the correspondence comes mostly via email, including a message from a Brautigan reader in the Czech Republic, who wrote in 2007: “I turn on you with a polite request. This time I have been reading a novel about the romantic possibilities of a public library in California,” wrote Miroslav Gojdic. “I would like to ask you if your library is open 24 hours too and if your library is depositary for unpublished manuscripts too.”

Brean answers the inquiries, as did her predecessors. Hers may not operate entirely like the fictional library Brautigan described — she does go home at night — but she says the renovated library will definitely commemorate Brautigan’s creation.

“I am totally committed,” she says. “We’ll find a way to do it.”