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Robert S. Swain Natural History Library

The Robert S. Swain Natural History Library, located in the Green Briar Nature Center, is a collection of some 1,800 books, periodicals and original manuscripts on the environmental history of the northeastern United States, particularly Cape Cod.

The library collection includes field guides to regional flora and fauna, historic writings, textbooks and educators' resources. Special strengths in our adult collection include ornithology and herbs. Our young adult section is stocked with such materials as guides for those thinking of a career in environmental sciences. Swain Library is intended to serve as a resource for people of every age interested in the ecology of the region.


As a boy, Robert S. Swain raised pigeons in the barn of his childhood home in Indiana. His love of the natural world continued throughout his life as he took up such hobbies as cultivating mushrooms, azaleas, gardenias, bonsai and orchids. Each of these ventures took not only devoted interest but knowledge gleaned from book after book.

In 1947 Mr. Swain and his wife Sarah purchased a dairy farm in Sandwich that today comprises the Briar Patch Conservation Area. As one of the charter members of the Thornton W. Burgess Society and an original member of the Board of Directors, Mr. Swain negotiated the purchase of the Green Briar property and served on the committee which raised the funds needed to develop the Green Briar Nature Center.

Mr. Swain donated his library to the Society to serve as a living and growing testimony to the power of knowledge. His books today form the core of our library.