April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Demonstrations: Description

The Biodiversity Heritage Library: An International Museum and Library Collaboration

Constance Rinaldo, Harvard University, USA

I will demonstrate the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an open access digital library that covers the legacy taxonomic literature. Ten major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions have collaborated to develop the BHL. A research scientist, educator, student or citizen scientist with access to the Internet, located anywhere in the world, will be able to search for specific information in all of the legacy literature relevant to biodiversity and transparently link the documentation to relevant taxonomic, geographic, or other useful databases. Such a tool would erase much of the expensive, labor-intensive work of library research and speed the production of research results. The ten partner libraries collectively hold a substantial part of the world's published knowledge on biological diversity; these collections are of exceptional value because the domain of systematic biology depends upon historic literature. The BHL members are actively partnering with institutions in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australasia.

BHL member institutions will scan volumes from their collections that are not covered by copyright, or for which permissions have been obtained, using the Internet Archive, a non-profit partner. Ongoing negotiations with commercial publishers and learned society publishers may expand the availability of the biodiversity literature. The digitized literature will be served to users from the Biodiversity Heritage Library Portal (, currently hosted by the Missouri Botanical Garden. The BHL Portal will create an innovative research environment: a freely accessible, Web Service formed through coupling existing databases with digitized images and OCR text of heritage literature.

The BHL Portal will use informatics tools to identify strengths and overlap across the participating institutions' libraries and to help solve the problems associated with the naming of organisms over time. These materials will be referenced by persistent globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) at the various structural levels, e.g. title, volume, article etc. so that they can be integrated across existing bibliographic and taxonomic citation databases, such as Tropicos, NameBank, and Zoological Record. The uBio team from the Marine Biological Laboratory / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (MBLWHOI) library has assembled an array of taxonomically intelligent services designed to overcome problems with searching for scientific or common names that have changed over time. These tools will be applied to the BHL content. The integration of taxonomic intelligence will enable linkages to other relevant indexed content in the Encyclopedia of Life and other web-accessible name-based sources.

Digital curation is a critical part of making the BHL a sustainable project that will ensure sustained, persistent access to the BHL content using the best available technology and administrative structures for preservation of digital files. The metadata, image files, digital derivatives, and text files generated during this project will create a significant resource that will require ongoing stewardship beyond the timetable outlined in the proposal. The BHL Institutional Council will plan for archival storage and appropriate migration of data.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Demonstrations]

Keywords: biodiversity library, legacy taxonomic literature, encyclopedia of life, open access, internet archive