RBG culling flora and fauna reads from li­brary

Here’s your chance to en­hance your li­brary with flora and fauna

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY REN­WALD

Kathy Ren­wald ex­plains why

Erin Aults loves to weed, but she never gets her hands dirty.

She’s work­ing at the Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, weed­ing the li­brary. The small space holds a mighty col­lec­tion, at least 12,000 books, and nearly as many jour­nals, mag­a­zines, his­tor­i­cal news­let­ters, seed cat­a­logues, archival doc­u­ments and ar­ti­facts. It’s a job she loves.

“It’s a per­fect space for me, I love nat­u­ral his­tory, get­ting to know items that are unique and re­ally fo­cused on a spe­cific topic.”

Re­cently, Aults was work­ing as a con­ser­va­tor with me­dieval manuscripts at a Univer­sity of Toronto li­brary, and be­fore that as­sem­bling a his­tory of the Grimsby Beach Chau­tauqua set­tle­ment for the Grimsby Public Li­brary.

At the RBG, the sub­ject mat­ter runs from ferns to fleas to frit­il­lar­ias. But the book sec­tion is burst­ing at the seams, so Aults is culling du­pli­cates, and books that don’t re­ally sup­port the fo­cus of the li­brary.

“We’ve had a li­brary at RBG since 1947,” says David Gal­braith, head of sci­ence, “but we have books that are re­dun­dant and don’t help us with what we do to­day. We are ab­so­lutely re­tain­ing books that are im­por­tant for the his­tory of hor­ti­cul­ture in Canada.”

After a care­ful in­ven­tory and culling, the RBG book col­lec­tion should be re­duced by about 3,000. Those books and also hun­dreds of mag­a­zines are go­ing in a gi­ant book sale at RBG head­quar­ters on Plains Road in Burling­ton next week.

On Fri­day, May 12, the sale is open to RBG mem­bers only, from 3 to 7 p.m. On Satur­day and Sun­day, May 13 and 14, the sale is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you love gar­den­ing books, it’s a great op­por­tu­nity to add some un­usual ti­tles to your col­lec­tion. There will be books on gar­den de­sign, ba­sic gar­den­ing, spe­cific plants, botany, and birds. In the older books, the il­lus­tra­tions are of­ten worth the price alone. Most books will be $1 to $2, with some priced a bit higher.

At the RBG Plant Faire on the week­end, there was a small ta­ble of books for sale as a pre­view of the big book sale. I picked up a charm­ingly il­lus­trated book on birds and an­other one on mush­rooms.

The goal of the sale isn’t to make money, it’s to make room in the li­brary.

As Aults and Gal­braith talk at a big ta­ble near the en­trance, vol­un­teers work nearby. El­iz­a­beth Av­ery has been or­ga­niz­ing the his­tor­i­cal seed cat­a­logue col­lec­tion, and Mau­reen Price is updating the RBG clip­ping file. Oth­ers work on the Cen­tre for Cana­dian His­tor­i­cal Horticultural Stud­ies col­lec­tion, and the RBG cor­po­rate archives, where doc­u­ments like the orig­i­nal draw­ings from the 1927 de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for the en­trance to Hamil­ton at the High Level Bridge re­side.

Vol­un­teers, Gal­braith says, have been es­sen­tial to keep the li­brary or­ga­nized and open. Though right now it’s open only to RBG staff, any mem­ber of the public can ask to come in to view the col­lec­tion and do re­search. It is a book lovers’ dream to wan­der among the shelves and see slim vol­umes on mosses and liv­er­worts, roses and wood ferns, or big cof­fee ta­ble books on birds and wild­flow­ers. The old­est book in the col­lec­tion, stored be­hind glass with other rare books, is “The The­atre of Plantes,” from 1640.

“The world of li­braries has changed enor­mously; by do­ing a bit of tight­en­ing up we are re­ally try­ing to leap for­ward into where li­braries are go­ing,” Gal­braith says. “Using new tools to en­gage a new au­di­ence.”

What’s left over from next week­end’s sale will be sent to a book re­seller, but both Aults and Gal­braith hope many of the books will find homes close by, with peo­ple who love plants and birds and the his­tory of our hor­ti­cul­ture.

Erin Aults is the book weeder at the Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. She is fil­ter­ing out du­pli­cates, and books that don’t per­tain to the fo­cus of the col­lec­tion.

This book, pub­lished in 1640, is in the rare book col­lec­tion in the RBG li­brary. The RBG is par­ing down its li­brary by about 3,000 books. They are go­ing on sale at a big book sale Mother’s Day week­end at RBG head­quar­ters.

KATHY REN­WALD PHOTOS

The RBG li­brary col­lects books that re­flect their work in con­ser­va­tion, ecol­ogy, botany and hor­ti­cul­ture.

The fine draw­ings in older gar­den books are at­trac­tive to col­lec­tors.

Many of the older books that will be in the sale have lovely il­lus­tra­tions.

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