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Ernst Mayr and Botany Libraries Join Harvard Library

Inside the Ernst Mayr Library.

As of September 1, the Harvard Library community has expanded to include a wealth of new resources on natural history, integrating both the Botany Libraries of the Harvard University Herbaria and the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) into the Harvard Library system.

The Botany Libraries and the Ernst Mayr Library offer collections of historical rare books, manuscripts, field notes, and current physical and digital images. These range from the first known full-color paintings of fish from the early 1700s, to the herbarium of Henry David Thoreau from the 1850s, to a newly acquired 1992 book on Aboriginal uses of wildlife.

Vice President for the Harvard Library Martha Whitehead and FAS Dean of Science Christopher Stubbs notified library staff of the integration of services via an emailed letter on August 27.

The integration of the two libraries will "expand the accessibility of library resources and services," the letter said, "enabling the science community to benefit from the larger Harvard Library community."

Harvard Library will also benefit, Whitehead and Stubbs noted, as Ernst Mayr and Botany librarians bring expertise in supporting advanced scientific research.

The integration of services will not affect users' experience in accessing the Ernst Mayr Library or Botany Libraries. Rather, the integration will mean an administrative change that brings the natural history libraries under the Harvard Library umbrella.

Whitehead and Stubbs wrote that they have seen among librarians and users "a growing openness, even eagerness," for administrative modifications like this one that let libraries deliver even better service.

To ensure a smooth management transition of the Ernst Mayr and Botany libraries, Harvard Library leaders have asked Elena Kramer, Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Interim Director of the Harvard University Herbaria, to help convene an advisory committee. The committee will include faculty and staff from the museums and sciences, and it will provide long-term oversight and advice on the management of the natural history libraries.

In their letter, Whitehead and Stubbs thanked the head librarians at both libraries for their partnership during the process of service integration.

The letter said Connie Rinaldo, Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library and Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Judy Warnement, Botany Librarian, have helped their respective libraries deliver "exemplary service" to the Harvard community. "Their efforts have been and continue to be instrumental in cultivating deep connections between researchers and the Library."

Over the next year, Harvard Library will also conduct a study of users' space needs at the Ernst Mayr Library and Botany Libraries. Understanding these needs is important to Library leadership and will help inform future decisions about library spaces. The study will be done in collaboration with the administration of the museums, the Division of Science, and Harvard Library.

Discussions about integrating services of the natural history libraries began two years ago, under the leadership of former Harvard Library Vice President Sarah Thomas and former Dean of Science Jeremy Bloxham, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics.