The BRIT research library, with approximately 125,000 volumes, is an extensive and exhaustive collection of botanical books and journals, particularly taxonomic works. It is especially valuable in researching the historical aspects of botany and is a valuable tool assisting the modern researcher. The personal collections of Dr. Lloyd H. Shinners and Dr. Eula Whitehouse formed the nucleus and today compose a major portion of the library.
Housed in a special room where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled are centuries-old encyclopedic works, floras, monographs, and reprints. Journals and serials are kept in an adjacent room. Twentieth century holdings include biographies and works in botany and gardening. The library contains basic reference works in systematic botany, including such standards as Index Kewensis, Index Londinensis, the Bradley Bibliography, and the printed catalogues of such great libraries as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Lindley, and the Arnold Arboretum.
The library is especially rich in the taxonomic literature of botany and horticulture in the last half of the 18th and 19th centuries. That period is considered the Golden Age of gardening in its broadest sense. It was also the Golden Age of gardening literature, and many of these works are literary classics in their own right.
The 16th and 17th centuries represent an era of the unfolding of botany and horticulture, of their development and refinement from the medieval arts and crafts of medicine and agriculture. This is the time of the classic herbals, of tomes of Materia Medica, and of dainty, specialized books on the art of perfumery. The great explorers and their voyages and expeditions were of this period, and the library includes many volumes treating these subjects.
The library exists to support the taxonomic research done by the botanists of BRIT and visiting botanical researchers and to support the varied programs sponsored and hosted by BRIT. The scientific reference collection includes materials valuable for research and systematic botany, particularly those with descriptions of new species. The remainder of the collection has been carefully selected to represent a comprehensive library of scientific and taxonomic books and publications primarily for naming and classifying plants. It is one of the largest and finest collections of botanical literature in the southwestern United States. Foremost among the programs sponsored by BRIT is that of the Science Education Program. Students and teachers use books from BRIT’s library to enrich their studies and to reach a fuller understanding of the value of plants.
Access to the collection has been physically and intellectually improved. Physical access has been improved by shifting selected portions of the collection and working to reduce the backlog of duplicate books and journals that have accumulated over the years. Intellectual access has been enhanced by bringing together bibliographic information and merging that information into a combined database available to all. Bibliographic records from SMU’s catalog and from the OCLC Union Catalog were added to catalog records developed at BRIT. All of the cataloged material in BRIT’s collection is now in one database.
Access to the collection is provided by a computer-based catalog that can be searched at BRIT or in the comfort of your home over the internet. The catalog uses the traditional author, title, and subject search keys. Nearly the entire botany library, with nearly 16,000 volumes, is currently available via the BRIT web page or through computers in-house. One may enter the BRIT web page, select Libraries, click on Search the Catalog, and have our catalog at your fingertips.