Branner Earth Sciences Library and Map Collections had its origins when Stanford's first faculty member and second President, John Casper Branner, began buying books as an 18 year old student at Cornell. He continued to acquire books, maps, and reports while at the Pennsylvania and Arkansas Geological Surveys. When he came to Stanford in 1891, he and his wife brought a boxcar full of books, which became the de facto departmental library, with himself also as the university's first librarian. He oversaw its continued growth and use by colleagues and students until he sold it to the University in 1915. He continued to buy and donate books to the collection until his death in 1922.

"By 1915 the collection had grown to more than 10,000 books, "an equal number of pamphlets and many maps," and was recognized as one of the best private collections in geology and related sciences in the country.  It also had spread far beyond the room next to Dr. Branner's former office in the Geology Department.  The Stanford Alumnus reported that the books on petrography "are with Professor Rogers in the petrography building," and those on mining and metallurgy "are with Professor Folsom in the mining building."  Branner, now University President, proposed that he turn the whole collection over to Stanford for the price of what the books cost him at the time of their purchase.  The Trustees agreed and University Librarian George T. Clark went through Branner's purchase records and arrived at a price of $23,500.  On June 14, 1915, the University made the purchase and the Branner Geological Library, named for its founder, became an integral part of the Stanford library system.  Today it is the foundation of the Branner Earth Sciences Library."

-- Book Collectors of Stanford by John Y. Cole, 1991

Three years later, Branner's former student, Dr. Solon Shedd, '96, retired as Geologist of the State of Washington, and became the second curator of the library. His assistant, LeVern Cutler, took over the collection upon Dr. Shedd's death in 1938. With LeVern's departure for wartime duties, his wife, Kathryn Cutler, became librarian, serving for forty years. During her tenure (1939-1979) the library had been moved from its long-time location on the second floor of Geology Corner to its current location in the Mitchell building. Charlotte Derksen became the Head of the Branner Library and the Earth Sciences Bibliographer in 1980 and retained that position until her retirement in 2004. Julie Sweetkind-Singer took over as the Head of Branner Library in 2004. The Earth and Environmental Sciences Librarian has been held by following librarians: Samantha Teplitzky (2005-2008), Hannah Winkler (2011-2016), Dr. Bridget Thrasher (2016-2019), and Dr. Alma Parada (2021-present).

The Earth Sciences library over the years collected a substantial number of maps. These resources were managed by Michael Noga (1982-1986), Rich Soares (1986-1987) and Leilani Freund (1987-1988). The map collection nearly doubled in size after the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. 100,000 maps were added from Green Library's central map collection. These maps were not cataloged in Socrates, the online library catalog, but were listed in the accompanying card catalog. J.K. Herro, the first official map librarian (1988-1996), began the work of integrating the two collections, online and in reality. His successor, Jean Kan (1996-2000), and map bibliographer Phil Hoehn (1996-2000) continued to catalog the central map collection as well as the Stanford Geological Survey map and field notebook collection.  

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program was started, integrating hardware, software, data, and technical expertise for the entire Stanford campus. In support of this important program, the library hired geographers Heather Murapa (1996-1999), Meredith Williams (1999-2006), Mindy Syfert (2006-2009), Patricia Carbajales (2010-2014), and Stace Maples (2015-present) to manage this service.

Julie Sweetkind-Singer (2000-present), and Assistant Map Librarian, Wafaa Salaje-Neil (2016-2018) continued the work of integrating Stanford's map resources by accepting the maps from the Hoover Library and East Asia collections in the summer of 2003. The past Assistant Map Librarian, Jane Ingalls (2000-2015), was instrumental in the integration of the Japanese Imperial maps from the East Asia Library.  In 2011, G. Salim Mohammed was introduced as the new Digital and Rare Maps Librarian at Stanford University, curating the David Rumsey Map Collection, which opened in April 2016. This expansion has led to innovations in the digitizating of maps at Stanford.  The current (1900-present) map collections are now managed by map librarian Andria Olson (2018-present).

With the development of Stanford's Data Managment Services, the library brought on Science Data Librarian Lynn Yarmey (2010-2011) and Amy Hodge (2012-present).

In addition to John Branner's original collection, the library has been made richer by the gifts of the following collections: Joseph Perrin Smith Malacology Collection, Montessus di Ballore Earthquake and Seismology Collection, the William R. Moran Geology and Map Collection and the Richard Jahns Collection. The current faculty have continued Branner's tradition of building up the library's collections with personal gifts of maps, books, and atlases. 

(Compiled in part by Charlotte Derksen, Head Librarian, 1980 - 2004)