Inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.
BHL also serves as the literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life .

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize 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 nearly 100,000 titles and over 160,000 volumes.

Much of the published literature on biological diversity 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 also 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. BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life .

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), the Bibliotheca Alexandrina(BHL Egypt), and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (BHL Africa) have created national or regional BHL nodes. Additionally, in 2014, the National Library Board of Singapore became the first institution to join BHL as both a Member of BHL and a global node (BHL Singapore). 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.

Strategic Plan


  • Current Approved Bylaws (11 March 2014) (PDF)

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