Library History

Albert Fairchild Holden

The Holden Arboretum was created by Albert Fairchild Holden as a memorial for his daughter, Elizabeth, who died in 1908 at the age of 12. Originally, the Arboretum was to have been located on the family estate in Bratenahl, but family interests precluded its use. An extensive survey of the region was conducted before Lake County was chosen as the home for the new arboretum.

Warren H. Corning

This new venture gained the support of investor Warren H. Corning, who in 1930 built his home, Lantern Court, on Kirtland-Chardon Road near the fledgling Arboretum. Corning served on the Board from 1937 to 1958 and served as an unpaid executive administrator from 1952-1958. His deep interest in the future of Holden Arboretum and in rare botanical and horticultural books set the stage for the formation of a library.


Henry R. Norweb

It was under the new director, Henry Norweb, that the first library was formed. Norweb’s wife, formerly the librarian at the State Library of Maine, was given the position of librarian. The early collection was made up of textbooks from the staff and duplicates from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It was housed in one room of the Cooper building.

Warren H. Corning began massive purchases of new botanical texts for the library. To provide a separate space for the developing library, he anonymously donated an extension of the Cooper Building and this was the first formal “home” of the library. It was completed in 1964 and was named the Warren H. Corning Library in recognition of his unflagging support. Corning also donated a substantial collection of rare botanical and horticultural books that became the core of our present-day Special Collections.

In 1979 construction began on a new visitor’s center. Named the Corning Visitor Center, space was allocated for the library and for a secure climate-controlled room for the rare books in Special Collections. It opened in 1980 and occupied a beautiful setting overlooking the butterfly garden.

In 2012 the library was completely redesigned. Today the Corning Library is a small, specialized library serving primarily the staff and members of Holden Arboretum, although visitors are welcome to browse the collections or ask reference questions. We presently have approximately 7,500 books, 30 journal subscriptions and approximately 75 CDs and DVDs.

  • Our collection focus is on trees and woody plants and shrubs, ecology, woodlot management, forest farming and sustainability, nature and plant propagation, and conservation/protection.
  • We place special emphasis on the Great Lakes region and Northeastern Ohio.
  • We also purchase on topics related to household gardening, environment, ecology and landscaping that are of interest to members.
  • Kid’s Corner has a large selection of children’s books.
  • We also have a Special Collections of approximately 500 titles (1000 volumes) which is housed in a separate climate-controlled room.