The Margaret Thorsen Library

Access to The Margaret Thorsen Library is one benefit of Museum membership. We have an extensive collection of scientific and popular books, scientific journals, and shell-club newsletters from around the world. To visit, an appointment must be made.

Most of the holdings in our library are available for interlibrary loans through the OCLS WorldCat system. Your local librarian can assist you with finding and borrowing the books you need using the appropriate tools.

CLICK HERE to access the link to the Sanibel Public Library Catalog to search the Shell Museum Library.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum greatly appreciates the Sanibel Public Library for hosting the Margaret Thorsen Library holdings online.

Meet Our Volunteer Librarians, Candy Heise and Cindy Timm

There is a little-known gem located on the second floor of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Available to Museum members or by special appointment, the Margaret Thorsen Library is a highly specialized collection housing many rare tomes and journals about mollusks and other marine life. These reference materials are sought by scholars around the world; such treasures are professionally cared for by two devoted volunteers with similar upbringings.

Candy Heise and Cindy Timm’s families both worked in the citrus industry in the same small town of Winter Haven, Florida. Yet the fellow-librarians would not meet until adulthood right here on Sanibel.

Candy Heise began her library career in Cape Girardeau, Missouri—where she lived for 23 years. After moving back to Florida, Candy accepted a full-time position with the Sanibel Public Library, where she’s been for the past 12 years.

Wanting a little extra income, she answered an ad to work at the Shell Museum Store. In the second year of her 5 years at the gift shop (then Executive Dir.) Science Director and Museum Curator Dr. José Leal asked Candy to volunteer in the upstairs library.

Volunteering meant using her one day off but she says, "I feel like I'm filling a need…I guess that's what Librarians are all about—providing a service to people. And I just love doing it.”

However, the tasks in the Library soon became such that Candy felt she needed help. The solution came from an unlikely connection—another librarian from the land where citrus was king.

After growing up in Winter Haven, Cindy Timm earned her MLS at the University of North Carolina and then ended up in Georgia. She worked in a number of hospital libraries and then moved on into school library work. “Retired” in 2005, Cindy and her family settled on Sanibel in 2008. After seeing a feature in the paper about the Sanibel Library and the reference librarian from her own home town she said, "I'm going to go meet her."

Cindy ended up becoming a volunteer at the Sanibel Library and then Candy asked her if she was interested in volunteering at the Shell Museum, as well.

“I needed help.” Candy said.

In addition to working both a full-time and part-time job, the Museum Library started gaining in popularity. These two volunteers not only work to maintain the Museum Library, they also strive to improve it. And it is their continued interest and enthusiasm that is a true gift beyond price.

Cindy Timm says of the Margaret Thorsen Library, “What's interesting is that sometimes maybe we have the item and the Smithsonian has it but no other library in the world has it. Article requests come mostly from universities, where people are doing research on Florida fossil shells, mollusks from different regions of the world, and a variety of other topics. For example, today we received article requests from the American Museum of Natural History in NY, Texas A&M University, and University of Hawaii. It’s very interesting.”