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Established by Garden founder Susanna Bixby Bryant in the late 1920s, the scope of the library (the largest west of St. Louis devoted to botany), is broadly botanical with some horticulture, particularly plants of the U.S. Southwest and other arid areas. The current base was assembled by and under general direction of  Philip A. Munz, with particular editions purchased by him  Many rare volumes were purchased at his suggestion and donated by Ellen B. Scripps.

Today, the library contains nearly 50,000 bound volumes and 750 current print and electronic journals and other periodicals related to the mission of RSABG and the library. Acquisitions are constantly being added in all formats.

The collection is designed for education and research purposes and is geared towards graduate students and advanced researchers. It is composed of books, periodicals, reprints, microforms, pamphlets, article reprints, and digital resources. These focus principally on systematic, floristic, and evolutionary botany, horticulture, California natural history, and the ethnobotany of southwestern North America and California.

The print collection circulates only to Garden employees and graduate students in botany.  A photocopy machine and scanner are available.  Interlibrary loans are available for materials not in the collection.

The holdings of the library are included in the online catalog of the Claremont Colleges, BLAIS,

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