Mary M. Walker Reading Room
Dedication of the Mary M. Walker Reading Room in the Lawrence Newcomb Library took place 9.28.2011
The dedication of the Mary M. Walker Reading Room in the Lawrence Newcomb Library at New England Wild Flower Society's Garden in the Woods took place September 28, 2011. The plaque noted the reading room was dedicated "to honor Mary's long and faithful service." It was a festive celebration attended by many of Mary's current and former colleagues in the library, old friends, and all three of Mary's children.
Bonnie Drexler, Education Director, noted Mary's service spanned four decades. When Mary started there were only 800 books in the library. Now there are more than five times that amount, totaling 4768 volumes. Mary has personally donated hundreds of volumes to the Society's library, helping to build a unique collection of botanical, horticultural and historical works related to plants and their uses. Mary even brought two books to the dedication to donate. Bonnie also told the assembled well-wishers Mary had obtained the herbarium specimens in the Society's collection from the Herbarium of the Concord Field Station and showed a Geum peckii speciman which Mary collected in Tuckerman's Ravine, NH, on July 28, 1976.
The following is a personal history of the early development of the Lawrence Newcomb Library by Mary M. Walker:
"Persis Green was executive secretary and later executive director of New England Wild Flower Society for nineteen years. In the early years the headquarters of the Society was in Horticultural Hall next to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Persis had a love of books and gradually built up her own personal collection, adding ones being weeded from the Mass. Hort. Library to the New England Wild Flower Preservation Society, as it was then called. In 1968-1969 the Society moved to new headquarters at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA. Persis brought with her this core collection of about 800 books.
"Our family moved to Concord, MA, from Idaho in 1968. I was very interested in native plants, and joined the Society shortly after its move to Framingham. I had an M.S. degree in geology with a minor in botany and had worked for the USDA Soil Survey in Beltsville, MD, during the war. That work involved a lot of library research in Washington, D.C. science libraries. However, I had married in 1947 and abandoned an ecology career for career of mother with 3 children for the time being. In 1969 I went back to school with the goal of being a botanical librarian in mind, and got my M.S.L.S. degree from Simmons College in 1971. I worked half-time until 1973 at Habitat Institute in Belmont, MA, which had just been founded. At Habitat Insitute, I developed an environmental science library from their core collection of natural history books.
"Meanwhile I had become acquainted with NEWFS, its botanical activities, its small but excellent library and with Persis. At that time those 800 books were arranged by author. I suggested to Persis that if the books were rearranged by subject they would be easier for members to find. And, I offered to help as a volunteer librarian. Another Society member, Iola Scheufele, a cataloger at Wellesley College, joined forces with me, and in 1972-73, we rearranged the books, established the Library of Congress classification system and the card catalog. In 1973-74, I became chairman of the newly formed Library Committee of the Society so that NEWFS members now had a proper library from which to borrow books. Two other volunteer members took a vast number of pamphlets and clippings and reorganized them into vertical files with the subject heading classification that we still use, a very useful piece of work, and skillfully done.
"I was chairman of the Library Committee for 18 years, until 1991. Iola worked patiently as cataloger with me until 1990. I am forever grateful to her and to all the other loyal and dedicated volunteers, then and now, who, working as a team usually at dull, routine tasks, have enabled the Society to have a functional and unique library to benefit the Society's staff, members, and the public."