Who We Are

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” The BHL consortium works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing tens of thousands of titles and over 100,000 volumes.

The published literature on biological diversity has limited global distribution; much of it is available in only a few select libraries in the developed world. These collections are of exceptional value because the domain of systematic biology depends, more than any other science, upon historic literature. Yet, this wealth of knowledge is available only to those few who can gain direct access to significant library collections. Literature about the biota existing in developing countries is often not available within their own borders. Biologists have long considered that access to the published literature is one of the chief impediments to the efficiency of research in the field. Free global access to digital literature repatriates information about the earth’s species to all parts of the world.

The BHL consortium members digitize the public domain books and journals held within their collections. To acquire additional content and promote free access to information, the BHL has obtained permission from publishers to digitize and make available significant biodiversity materials that are still under copyright.

Because of BHL’s success in digitizing a significant mass of biodiversity literature, the study of living organisms has become more efficient. The BHL Portal allows users to search the corpus by multiple access points, read the texts online, or download select pages or entire volumes as PDF files.

The BHL serves texts with information on over a 150 million species names. Using Global Names Recognition and Discovery (GNRD) and UBio’s taxonomic name finding tools, researchers can bring together publications about species and find links to related content in the Encyclopedia of Life. Because of its commitment to open access, BHL provides a range of services and APIs which allow users to harvest source data files and reuse content for research purposes.

Since 2009, the BHL has expanded globally. The European Commission’s eContentPlus program has funded the BHL-Europe project, with 28 institutions, to assemble the European language literature. Additionally, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (BHL-China), the Atlas of Living Australia (BHL-Australia), Brazil (through BHL-SciELO) and the Bibliotheca Alexandrinahave created national or regional BHL nodes. Additionally, in April, 2013, the BHL-Africa global node officially launched. Global nodes are organizational structures that may or may not develop their own BHL portals. It is the goal of BHL to share and serve content through the BHL Portal developed and maintained at the Missouri Botanical Garden. These projects will work together to share content, protocols, services, and digital preservation practices.

Vision

Inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

Mission

The Biodiversity Heritage Library works collaboratively to make biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.

Goals

Goal 1: Relevant Content

Build and maintain the BHL as the largest reliable, reputable, and responsive repository of biodiversity literature and archival materials.

Goal 2: Tools and Services

Develop services and tools which facilitate discovery and improve research efficiency of BHL content.

Goal 3: User Engagement

Increase global awareness about the BHL through outreach, learning and education, and branding through engagement and collaboration with existing and new user communities.

Goal 4: Membership and Partnerships

Grow BHL consortia membership and partnerships while fostering cross-institutional collaboration that continues to serve as a model for digital library development.

Goal 5: Financial Sustainability

Ensure sustainability and relevance by being flexible, adaptable, and financially sound while the content and services remain openly and freely available.

By-Laws for the Biodiversity Heritage Library


Funding Sources


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