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 .

Joining the Biodiversity Heritage Library
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a collaborative program to make biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community. It is administered and maintained by a consortium of natural history, botanical, agricultural and research 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, intellectual property rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. The digitized collection can be accessed through the BHL Portal, which provides searching functionality and services appropriate for users. Individual volumes may be also be accessed through the Internet Archive.

Mission, Vision and Key Values of the BHL
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.
Key Values:
  • Open access -- The digital content served by the BHL is available without cost and can be reused by other projects and users.
  • Collaboration -- Each BHL member institution will actively coordinate its activities with other BHL member institutions to achieve agreed-to objectives.
  • Interoperability -- BHL systems will interoperate with major biodiversity project systems.
  • Transparency -- The processes and administration of the BHL will be clear and documented.

How to Become Involved

With the approval of the BHL Executive Committee (as recommended by a Membership committee), institutions and organizations can join the BHL as either Members or Affiliates. In either case, the institution or organization must designate an individual to serve as that institution’s official representative. The individuals who serve in either body represent their host institutions and the BHL program as a whole.
At this time, BHL does not have a legal, incorporated status. All finances are handled through BHL Member institutions with the Smithsonian Libraries hosting the Secretariat and serving as manager of central funds.
The central hub of the BHL is known as the BHL US/UK and includes Members and Affiliates from the United States and the United Kingdom. There are other nodes in China, Europe, Australia, Egypt, Brazil, and Africa. Organizations located outside the US/UK may request membership or affiliation in the BHL US/UK but are encouraged to collaborate with other global BHL nodes in their areas as appropriate.
BHL Members and Affiliates enjoy many benefits, which include:
  • Participation in an active international collaborative working together in an open access mode to make biodiversity research and study more efficient and effective;
  • Knowledge that the project is repatriating biodiversity literature to the countries and regions from which species have been collected and studied in other parts of the world;
  • Becoming part of an international network of biodiversity librarians connected with each other, with biodiversity-related organizations and the international research community;
  • Opportunities for staff development;
  • Training on access to, and use of, the BHL content;
  • Prestige, because the BHL is an award-winning project and a world-recognized international collaborative having a major impact on the international research community and the public.

Joining as a Member or Affiliate

Joining as a Member

In general, the BHL will consider for membership those institutions or organizations that are strategic to the BHL’s mission. Potential members must be concerned with biodiversity in (higher) education and research and can:
  • Demonstrate that the institution or organization provides and maintains library services and collections or technological infrastructure and innovations at an appropriate level for research and scholarly pursuits in biodiversity;
  • Contribute to the support of programs and research being offered by the present membership;
  • Have the institutional resources to make collections digitally accessible via open access;
  • Pay annual dues of $10,000/yr.;
  • Have the institutional resources to participate in BHL program by providing some combination of the following:
  • Financial support beyond the dues (e.g. scanning, travel to BHL meetings, grants etc.);
  • Human resources (e.g. staff to assist with quality control, metadata creation, etc.);
  • Biodiversity content (e.g. digital, paper, film, etc.);
  • Technology expertise or infrastructure (e.g. server support, imaging studio, etc.);
  • Strategic promotion within the global biodiversity community.
BHL members govern the BHL program, and are eligible for election as officers of the BHL. Eligibility for membership is determined by the current members and a membership committee will review applications and make recommendations to the Executive Committee. The work of BHL members is facilitated by the signing of a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

BHL Membership (BHL Members Responsibilities)

The BHL members govern and determine policy for the BHL program. Each representative gets one vote. Membership is renewed upon the payment of dues. The BHL Executive Committee officers (Chair, Vice-chair, Secretary) are elected from the members. BHL Members must:
  • Commit to open access
  • Establish standards, priorities, and policies for the BHL;
  • Approve and monitor the BHL budget;
  • Promote awareness of the BHL nationally and/or internationally;
  • Identify programs and other activities for possible involvement in the BHL;
  • Participate in and provide advice and guidance on fund-raising locally and for the consortium;
  • Authorize and participate in BHL working groups and committees as needed;
  • Approve applications for BHL membership and affiliation;
  • Approve and adhere to Bylaws for the operation of the BHL;
  • Approve the appointment of the BHL Program Director, the Technical Director, and Deputy Director.

Advantages to BHL Membership

  • Active participation in guidance and development of the BHL Program and approval of central budget;
  • Access to specialized software, technical support and funds for digitization, for example access to a hosted version of Macaw;
  • Participation of technical staff in software development;
  • Participation in fund-raising to benefit both BHL and individual institution;
  • Possibility of limited travel support;
  • Achieving economy of scale for access to, and storage of, digital collections in a safe repository;
  • For federal library members, possibility of benefiting from and participating in collaborative projects funded by federal agencies such as NEH and IMLS.

Application Process -- Members

  • Applications should be submitted to the BHL Program Director who will review the criteria and process with the applicant.
  • Applications will be reviewed by the membership committee and recommendations made to the Executive Committee.
  • The BHL- EC will review recommendations and make the final decision.
  • Applicants will be notified of the BHL-EC decision by the Program Director. If the decision is negative, the applicant will be notified and given feedback by the Program Director.
  • To complete the application process, the new member must submit the BHL Memorandum of Understanding signed by the appropriate institutional representative and pay the membership dues. Membership is based on calendar year, starting in January.

Withdrawal or Removal -- Members

Members may withdraw from the BHL at any time via written notice to the BHL Chair or non-payment of dues. Dues may not be refunded. Membership may be revoked with cause effective at the end of any calendar year by two-thirds vote of the BHL membership.

Joining as a BHL Affiliate

BHL Affiliates are those institutions or organizations that wish to participate in the BHL but are unable to pay the annual dues or come from another part of the biodiversity community with related interests in the work of the BHL. Examples of affiliates are institutions that can contribute content, technical or other in-kind services, publishers for whom BHL is hosting content, and biodiversity organizations with allied interests that provide continuing support for the BHL. Institutions and/or publishers who request BHL services or require technical assistance may be required to sign either an MOU or customized agreement that defines their level of participation and may incur service fees.
The Affiliate term is three years and may be renewed upon request and approval by the Executive Committee.

BHL Affiliates Responsibilities

  • Commit to open access
  • Contribute biodiversity content that meets standards and guidelines
  • Be involved in biodiversity efforts and provide advice, strategic promotion, or other information that supports BHL
  • Participate in task forces, committees and working groups as requested
  • Designate a person to serve as liaison to the BHL and attend appropriate meetings
  • Pay service fees as appropriate.

Advantages to BHL Affiliation

  • Participation in an active, award-winning collaborative program that is making biodiversity literature freely available to the world;
  • Opportunity to provide advice about the growth and development of the BHL Program;
  • Discounts on service fees for content ingest, access and technical assistance.

One-time Contributors

BHL can accommodate one-time content contributors, who do not wish to become members or affiliates, but are willing to pay a service fee to cover costs of data preparation, storage and access to technical advice and assistance.

If you would like to contribute in-copyright titles to the BHL collection, please consult our Permissions page


Membership Committee

The BHL Membership Committee is responsible for recruitment of potential members, review of membership applications and submission of recommendations regarding membership applications to the BHL Executive Committee.
The Membership Committee will have 3 members appointed by the Executive Committee. Members will serve a term of 3 years with 1/3 members cycling off the Committee each year. In the event of a resignation of a Committee member, the EC will select a replacement to complete the term of that individual.

Application for Membership or Affiliate Status

Institution or Organization name:

Address and Phone Number:

Individual completing application (name and email contact information):


Library or Organization Profile (if applicable)
Collection size & strengths:
Staff size & areas of expertise:
Digitization projects experience:

Other organizational features
Technology infrastructure:
Grant-writing experience:

Statement of interest in BHL & biodiversity:
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