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 .


Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature

Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature, which is funded generously by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), will significantly increase online access to biodiversity material by positioning BHL as an on-ramp for biodiversity content providers that would like to contribute to the national digital library infrastructure through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The grant proposes to address challenges facing content providers—including insufficient amounts of content, indexing of scientific names, and metadata creation—and make necessary digital infrastructure enhancements by creating an innovative model for open access to data and to support collaboration among these institutions. The project would meet the goals of the IMLS National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program by increasing access to digital services, expanding the range and types of digital content available, improving discoverability, and supporting open access.

The Project Team will interact with content providers to improve metadata through training and quality control, engage the community through outreach on a national level, pursue copyright permissions, and improve BHL’s digital infrastructure through system enhancements. This project will address the challenges that many libraries, archives, and museums face in sharing their content by developing partnerships and providing the tools and services needed for future and ongoing participation in a shared and sustainable national digital platform.

The goals of the project are to: 1) Expand BHL’s role as a subject-specific content provider for life sciences; 2) Serve as an aggregator to allow small natural history collections to present their content in DPLA via BHL and expand the community of content providers by working with new partners; 3) Preserve and provide access to small natural history and botanical collections and publications through outreach, assistance with scanning, and software tools to format and normalize data for ingest; and 4) Increase the quality of partner metadata through use of DPLA metadata best practices.

The Project Team has four intended outcomes and a means towards measuring the success of these outcomes: 1) Expand public access to biodiversity literature; 2) Increase in the number of new and first time content providers to both BHL and DPLA, ideally with at least 100 added by the second year; 3) Serve as a model for “subject-based” hubs; and 4) Develop processes that will ensure long-term biodiversity contributions to DPLA.

Success will also be measured by the increase in the number of new metadata records to BHL and DPLA (~300,000 new records added by the second year), and by the increase in the amount of biodiversity and cultural heritage materials discoverable in BHL and DPLA, as indicated by an increase in the number of contributed items and pages. Another measure of success will be an increased utilization of BHL’s self-service ingest tool (Macaw) by the content providers over the next several years. Additionally, the project will add up to 50 titles that are still in copyright to the BHL portal and thus make current content accessible through DPLA.

By removing obstacles that obstruct content providers’ participation and by developing tools to support and facilitate contribution to DPLA, this project will strengthen the holdings of BHL and DPLA and will benefit those institutions that lack the resources to make their collections widely accessible. Participating libraries, museums, and natural history societies will benefit by exposing their content more broadly, and researchers and the public will benefit from the increased access to biodiversity content. These often hidden collections will be made available to the public at large on a shared national platform. BHL will provide a repository/delivery system that allows natural history institutions that don’t have the capacity to purchase or host their own system to share their digital content.

The project runs from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2017 and will be conducted by the New York Botanical Garden in partnership with Harvard University, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [LG-70-15-0138-15]

Project Team

New York Botanical Garden
  • Susan Fraser, Principal Investigator
  • Susan Lynch, Data Manager
  • Donald Wheeler
  • Mariah Lewis, Metadata Specialist
  • Andrew Tschinkel, Digitization Technician

Missouri Botanical Garden, Center for Biodiversity Informatics
  • Trish Rose-Sandler
  • Mike Lichtenberg

Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University
  • Constance Rinaldo, Community Coordinator
  • Joe deVeer
  • Patrick Randall, Community Manager

Smithsonian Institution Libraries
  • Martin Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director
  • Carolyn Sheffield, BHL Program Manager
  • Bianca Crowley, BHL Collections Coordinator
  • Joel Richard, Head, Web Services

Original Proposal & Schedule

Project Narrative & Proposal



  • "Getting the Most out of the Biodiversity Heritage Library," Northeast Natural History Conference, April 2017, Cromwell, CT (workshop)
  • American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, February 2017, Atlanta, GA (small press table)
  • Cheadle Center for Biological and Ecological Resoration (CCBER): "Natural History Collections Documents Workshop: Physical Preservation, Metadata, and Document Databasing," August 2016, Santa Barbara, CA (virtual presentation)
  • Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL) 48th Annual Meeting, May 2016, Cleveland, OH

Media Coverage

BHL Blog

Biodiversity Heritage Library

Content Added

Content Provider
American Birding Association
North American Birds
American Fern Society
American Malacological Society
American Malacological Bulletin

American Malacological Bulletin: Special Publications

Bulletin (American Malacological Union)

Annual Reports
Amphibian & Reptile Conservation
Amphibian & Reptile Conservation
Amphipacifica Research Publications
Amphipod Newsletter, Editors
Amphipod Newsletter
Arkansas Native Plant Society
Braithwaite, Michael
A short flora of Berwickshire
California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter
The Bay Leaf
California Native Plant Society, Kern Chapter
Mimulus Memo
California Native Plant Society, Mount Lassen Chapter
The Pipevine
Cambridge Entomological Club
Psyche v.1-89
Carolina Bird Club
CBC Newsletter
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

IES Newsletter
Cherokee Garden Library, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
The Southern Cultivator
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Annual Report

Investigative Reports
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
El-Hennawy, Hisham K.
Florida Ornithological Society
Florida Field Naturalist
Idaho Native Plant Society
Sage Notes
Iowa Ornithologists' Union
Iowa Bird Life
Kloppenburg, Robert Dale
Hoya New
The Lepidopterists' Society
A synonymic list of the Nearctic Rhopalocera (Memoir No.1)

A catalogue/checklist of the butterflies of America, north of Mexico (Memoir No.2)

Supplement to A catalogue/checklist of the butterflies of America, north of Mexico (Memoir No.3)
Linnaean Society of New South Wales
Long Island Botanical Society
Long Island Botanical Society newsletter
Mantis Study Group
Mantis Study Group newsletter
Maryland Ornithological Society
Field List of the Birds of Maryland (3rd Ed., 1996)

Maryland Birdlife

The Maryland Yellowthroat
New York Botanical Garden, LuEsther T. Mertz Library
A Botanist's Ramble in Central America

Algunas palmeras industriales de la flora istmeña

Ensaio para uma synonimia dos nomes populares das plantas indigenas do Estado de S. Paulo

Orchideen-Sammlung des Herrn Martin Rücker Jenisch zu Flotbeck-Park bei Hamburg
New York Entomological Society
Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society

Entomologica Americana

Journal of the New York Entomological Society
Ohio Coleopterist Society
Ohio Beetles Bulletin
Pacific Seabird Group
Pacific Seabird Group Bulletin
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
(see all titles)
Phasmid Study Group
Phasmid Studies
Pollock, Andrew
Binomial and trinomial index to The Auk, 1884-1940...
Raptor Research Foundation
Raptor Research News (v.1-5, 1967-1971)

Raptor Research (v.6-15, 1972-1981)

The Journal of Raptor Research (v.21-39, 1987-2005)

Smithsonian Institution
Echinoderm Newsletter
Southern California Botanists

Endangered Plant Communities of Southern California

A Flora of the Santa Rosa Plateau
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Roosevelt Wild Life Annals

Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin
Tennessee Ornithological Society
The Tennessee Warbler

The Migrant
Tower Hill Botanic Garden Library
Transactions of the Worcester County Horticultural Society
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Census of Agriculture
University of Alberta, Entomology Department
Quaestiones entomologicae
University of California, Berkeley
A Synopsis of the Amphibia of California
University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries
(see all titles)
Western Carolina Botanical Club
Western Field Ornithologists
California Birds
Western Society of Malacologists
Occasional Papers
Wildlife Conservation Society
Wilson Ornithological Society
The Wilson Bulletin

The Wilson Journal of Ornithology
Wisconsin Entomological Society
Checklist of Wisconsin Butterflies

Checklist of Wisconsin Dragonflies

Newsletter of the Wisconsin Entomological Society

Wisconsin Millipeds
Yale University / Medical Heritage Library
An Essay on the Antiquity of Hindoo Medicine

Contact Us

  • For more information please contact the project's Principal Investigator, Susan Fraser at 718-817-8879 or
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