The New York Botanical Garden International Plant Science Center
Mertz Library
Science Home ... Mertz Library ... About the Mertz Library

The Access Service and Reference Desk

The Rare Book Room

The William D. Rondina and Giovanni Foroni LoFaro Gallery
About the Mertz Library


The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is one of the world’s largest and most important botanical and horticultural research libraries, with over 800,000 accessioned items (books, journals, original art and illustration, seed and nursery catalogs, architectural plans of glass houses, scientific reprints, and photographs) and over 3,000 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 the Research Library Group, 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.

  Back to Top

Cataloging: The Library’s Cataloging staff is responsible for the descriptive and subject cataloging of all books and journals received by the Library. The Garden adheres to national library standards of bibliographic description and subject access, as is described elsewhere in this booklet. Key to this work is the maintenance of an authority file of names and terms that provides basic and consistent access though the online catalog. Since 1978, the Library's collection records with detailed bibliographic descriptions have been put into OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), an international bibliographic network. Since 1995, the bibliographic records are also uploaded to RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network). Both OCLC and RLIN are widely used for both bibliographic and location information and are searched by more than 28,000 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 or the cataloging of the Index Seminum collection. Cataloging is also responsible for the consistent design and application of non-library system databases for inventory and control of some of the special collections. Over the next few years the Library will be working to migrate its local databases to more robust software that can be linked to either the online catalog or the Library’s Web pages in order to make them Web accessible.

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.

  Back to Top


NYBG Home  |  Science Home  |  About Us  |  Site Map  |  Participate  |  Contact Us
© 2007 The New York Botanical Garden  |  Photo Credits
Terms of Use  |  We welcome your feedback and suggestions.