RBG culling flora and fauna reads from library
Here’s your chance to enhance your library with flora and fauna
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.
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.