By Elizabeth Stoakes, BAS Historian
Our organization is very fortunate to have a physical location—our combination library and nature center located in Fleming Park—where its members can interact with the public continually and promote the appreciation of birds and natural history in general. Many Audubon chapters lack such a resource. One of our greatest (and often overlooked) features is our outstanding nature library, a treasure trove of over 2000 volumes! Many of our founding members (Esther O’Connor, Albert Shirling, and Oscar Hawksley, to name a few) donated their books, lovingly accumulated over their lifetimes of nature study and enjoyment, to form the cornerstone of our collection. While we do have some incredible ornithological works (Otto Widmann’s Birds of Missouri, or John Krider’s Forty Years’ Notes of a Field Ornithologist, anyone?), our library is so much more than just “bird books”.
Our shelves house books about insects, reptiles, mammals, plants, fungi, gardening, geology, wilderness survival, ecological issues, biographies and writings of famous naturalists (including 23 volumes of work by our namesake, John Burroughs), and more. Even in the age of eBird and Google, it is wonderful to step back in time and peruse these older works and admire the dedication, knowledge, and artistry of all the scientists and nature lovers, amateur and professional, who have preceded us.
As an avid book lover, current member of the BAS Library Committee, past President of the group, and newly appointed Historian, I want to introduce you to some of the fascinating contents of our library via this new blog. It will also provide an opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of BAS and ornithological history. I hope it will make us even prouder to be birders and Audubon members, and stoke the fire of our willingness to protect birds and their world in these perilous times. Most of all, I hope it will encourage everyone to come out and visit the library—to enjoy the books, as well as the birds!
See you at the library!