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The Access Service and Reference Desk


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About the Mertz Library

Overview

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is one of the world's largest and most important botanical and horticultural research libraries, with over one million accessioned items (books, journals, original art and illustration, seed and nursery catalogs, architectural plans of glass houses, scientific reprints, and photographs) and over 4,800 linear feet of archival materials. The Library serves as both a research and a public library and as both a scholarly resource and a general plant information service. It offers a wide array of reference resources, print and electronic, and the help of an informed staff to anyone visiting the Library through the Internet or in person.

The Library seeks to collect as comprehensively as possible in systematic and floristic botany with particular strengths in the literature about the Western Hemisphere, the focus of the Garden's research program. Since its establishment in 1899, other major research and academic libraries in New York City have transferred their plant-related collections to the Library and have deferred to it the role of serving as the primary plant-focused library in the metropolitan area.

The Library is an active institutional member of OCLC, the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, the Society of American Archivists, and the American Institute for Conservation.

Other Library Functions

Acquisitions/Collection Development: The original guidelines for the development of the Library were stated by Nathaniel Lord Britton, the Garden's first director. In his report of 1904, he stated that: "We should certainly aim to make the library as complete as possible in pure botany, and in its related sciences of horticulture, agriculture, forestry, and such portions of general biology as apply to plants, and I believe that no greater service could be rendered to these subjects in America, than by some provision be means of which our library should be perfected." Guided by this goal established in the early years of the Garden, that the library should be a complete as possible, the Mertz Library has collected books and other printed materials particular to the plant sciences since its inception at the end of the 19th century. The nature of the plant sciences has changed since then and continues to change as new information is discovered. Since the end of World War II publications in the sciences have grown exponentially. Many of the areas identified by the Garden founders as essential to the Garden library have become highly specialized and have since been recognized as beyond the scope of the library. The core of the library collections at the New York Botanical Garden remains botanical.

Guided by the intentions of the Garden founders, the Acquisitions staff is responsible for identifying and collecting materials published in the fields of plant studies including plant systematics, world and regional floras, plant taxonomy, and economic botany. These materials support the Garden's work in systematic, floristic and economic botany. The library also collects publications in horticulture, gardening and landscape design. Books and journals are acquired by purchase, as gifts, or through exchange with other botanical and academic institutions in Europe, Africa, China and the countries in South and Central America.

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Cataloging: The Cataloging Services Department provides bibliographic control and intellectual access to the Library's collections and maintains the content of the Library's online catalog. Its work enables users of the catalog to determine what the Library has and where to find it. The Department's long range plan is to establish bibliographic control and provide intellectual access to all of the Library's collections, past, present and future.

Because of the comprehensive nature of our collection, we create original catalog records for almost 40% of the material we acquire. These records are shared with the world-wide library community. The Department is responsible for the descriptive and subject cataloging of all materials received and provides cataloging and metadata for electronic formats.

Since 1978, the Library's collection records with detailed bibliographic descriptions have been put into OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), an international bibliographic network. OCLC is widely used for bibliographic and holdings information and is searched by over 35,000 libraries and their users worldwide.

The Cataloging staff is also responsible for such long-term projects as the establishment of entries in the catalog for the Vertical file and the cataloging of the Index Seminum, Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog collections.

Conservation/Preservation: The Conservation/Preservation staff is responsible for all aspects of the long-term care and preservation of library and archival materials so that they will be accessible to future generations of researchers and patrons. To assure the physical and chemical stability of these collections, the staff performs a wide range of activities including the monitoring of environmental conditions in the Library storage areas, collection care maintenance (cleaning, minor repair and re-housing), conservation treatment (physical rebinding and restoration), reformatting, and the preparation and mounting of exhibitions. In addition, the conservation/preservation staff is also involved in special projects, internship training and disaster and recovery planning. On-going projects carried out by the Conservation/Preservation staff include collection inventory, cleaning and re-housing of the Art and Illustration and the Lord & Burnham Collections and the long-term work of repairing, restoring and creating protective enclosures for items from the Rare Book and Folio Collection and the Pre-1850 Publication Collection.

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About LuEsther T. Mertz
Acknowledgements
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