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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Amphibians & Reptiles

Oxyrhopus petola
Oxyrhopus petola Ecuador, Napo Province. Photographed by William W. Lamar
Phyllomedusa vaillantii
Phyllomedusa vaillantii Ecuador, Pastaza Province. Photographed by William W. Lamar

The Library of the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles is located in the West Wing, Ground Floor of the Natural History Building (NHB). It is a divisional branch of the Smithsonian Institution Library (SIL) and houses the majority of books, monographs, serials, and periodicals that specifically deal with amphibians and reptiles. There are approximately 257 serial titles and more than 3,900 books and monographs in the collection; a list of the holdings is accessible through SIRIS, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries online catalog, The Division also maintains its own herpetological library that functions as an integral part of the research program in the museum. It includes a comprehensive collection of herpetological reprints that are filed by author; books, bound volumes, and collected papers of prominent herpetologists; a bound set of the Smithsonian Herpetological Information System (SHIS) publications; bound volumes of the herpetological papers published by major herpetological institutions and museums; and reprints of publications of curators and other associates of the Division that are available for exchange. The Ron and Miriam Heyer Leptodactylinae Research Bibliography Library (see Heyer’s staff page) is also in the library, as are available reprints (>350 items) from the Biological Survey Staff that were distributed as part of the Herpetological Reprint Exchange Program between 1980 and 2000. Other available resources include Gazetteers and Climatological Atlases, files and volumes on specific regions of the New World (e.g., North American Fauna, Barro Colorado Island), copies of Nomenclatural Decisions involving herpetological taxa/names, theses and dissertations received from colleagues around the world, uncatalogued Newsletters and Bulletins with herpetological content published by scientific societies, museums and government and non-government organizations, price lists from sellers of books and reprints on herpetology, and other similar files.

Amphibians & Reptiles Division Library
Photo by James Poindexter II.

The collection of publications was started in the mid- to late 1800s by curators and researchers in herpetology, including Spencer Fulton Baird (1823-1887), Charles Frédéric Girard (1822-1895), and Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1851-1943). Each of these prominent herpetologists maintained working copies of published books and papers for their own research. When the idea of a division library arose in the early to mid-1900’s, their personal collections were combined. This working library was expanded by subsequent curators including Doris Mable Cochran (1898-1968) and James Arthur Peters (1922-1972) in the mid-1960s when active solicitation of reprints and books was initiated. In the early 1970s the Division purchased the Ruthven Herpetological Reprint Collection from the Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan  and started a comprehensive exchange program with other scholarly institutions and societies. George Robert Zug joined the Division as curator in 1969 and established an extensive exchange program with other institutions/presses based on SHIS publications. The SHIS publications also served as an outlet for professional and amateur herpetological bibliographic publications. In 2008, Roy Wallace McDiarmid took over responsibility for the Division library program, which continues.

The library is currently undergoing reorganization and expansion with an ultimate goal of digitizing all available references. Books, journals, serials, and reprints are added to the library continually, with a monthly display of new arrivals. Major library collections (e.g., Carl Henry Ernst’s reprint library, James Bernard Murphy’s reprints, Robert George Sprackland’s book collection) are also acquired periodically  Donations to the collection of rare and important books, papers, and reprints are always welcome. We also request that researchers, as part of their responsibility when using the preserved specimen collection (USNM) for research, provide reprints of resulting publications, which we track and file.

We consider the Division library to be an integral part of our research program and that of others and encourage researchers to make use of the library resources. A copy machine is available for their use. Our goal is to continue to build and maintain a global bibliographic resource dealing with the systematics, evolution, and natural history (behavior, distribution, ecology, life history, etc.) of amphibians and reptiles.


(rev. Jul 2018)

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