Tips for Effective Loan Requests
Determine exactly what you need to borrow. Make a list of all the names (those currently used and synonyms) for the species that are relevant to your study.
Helpful nomenclatural resources are:
Examine local specimens first. Do as much research as possible with the specimens in your herbarium, or local herbaria that you can visit easily, before requesting specimens on loan. This will give you an idea of which species are most common, and which specimens are widely distributed. Consult Index Herbariorum to determine which appropriate herbaria are in your area..
Choose the correct herbaria to borrow from. Resist the temptation to compose a loan request letter containing every possibly applicable specimen and then send this request to a wide range of herbaria. Choose a couple of large herbaria that may have a broad range of what you want and with holdings that complement what is in your institutional herbaria (or those that you can visit easily). Then choose regional herbaria that may have specimens of narrowly distributed species and those that hold historically important collections or types. Sources of information that will help you limit the specimens in your request to those specimens most likely to be on deposit in a given herbarium:
- Previous floras and monographs. On-line library catalogs such as CATALPA may be helpful
- On-line specimen catalogs (see Useful References)
- Index Herbariorum (when looking for collections by a specific collector, try searching “Important Collections”)
- Websites for individual herbaria – even if the herbarium has not been digitized, many herbaria indicate major collectors represented or geographic specialties for the collection. Index
Herbariorum includes herbarium websites where available.
- Taxonomic Literature--2
Make requests as specific and detailed as possible. Specimens are usually filed in a herbarium in alphabetical order by the name on the specimen, and, therefore, to enable efficient extraction of your loan, all taxon names (including synonyms) should be arranged in one alphabetical sequence irrespective of synonymy. You should indicate the geographic area from which you want specimens. Be sure to indicate the family or families to which the taxa you are studying have been assigned.
Special instructions for type specimens:
- Before requesting type specimens from The New York Botanical Garden, please consult the Virtual Herbarium. All vascular plant types, and some fungus and bryophyte types have been cataloged. If the type specimen has been digitized, it may be that you do not actually need to borrow the specimen. If you do still wish to borrow the type of specimen that has been digitized, please include the barcode number of the specimen in your loan request.
- For types that have not yet been digitized, indicate the basionym, the literature citation for the protolog and collector collector number and/or date.
- Requests for "all types" of a genus will be returned to you for additional information. General requests for types will likely result in your receipt of names that have long been excluded from that genus and thus are of no use to you.
- Don’t borrow more than you study and annotate.
- Keep in mind that curators who send specimens on loan expect them to be annotated by the borrowers with the correct and currently accepted name and, when applicable, with the fact that a piece of the specimen was removed, e.g., for anatomical or molecular studies. Also, you must have sufficient herbarium cabinet space in which to store loaned specimens safely. It is unacceptable to store specimens in their shipping boxes once those boxes have been opened, or in any cabinet that does not.
- For most studies, it is not necessary to borrow every specimen in every herbarium. Choose a couple of large herbaria that may have a broad range of what you want and with holdings that complement what is in your institutional herbaria (or those that you can visit easily). Then choose regional herbaria that may have specimens of narrowly distributed species and those that hold historically important collections or types. You don't have to request loans from all herbaria at once. Requests can be sent later to additional herbaria to acquire specimens to fill particular needs.
Information to include in the Request:
- Describe the project in sufficient detail to explain why specimens are needed, and the scientific importance of the study. Maintaining an herbarium loan program requires a substantial investment by an institution, and most herbaria are required to justify their loan programs (and sometimes their continued existence!) on the basis of the scientific research programs to which they contribute. Curators will appreciate a succinct but informative description of the scientific impact of the current study.
- Give the name of the person who is going to study the specimens, their status (staff member, student, or visitor) and in the case of graduate students, the name of the supervisor for the student.
- Indicate how long the specimens will be needed. Standard loans are granted for one year; extensions are possible on request.
- If you wish to remove portions of the specimen for DNA or other methods of study, please familiarize yourself with our Policy on Destructive Sampling. Please describe briefly the number of specimens to be sampled, the amount of material needed, and any other pertinent information.
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