Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Article Download Features

We first launched our article download functionality back in January of 2009, giving users the ability to create their own PDF of selected pages from an item in BHL. Since that time, over 79,000 articles have been created by our users. That's an average of 80 articles created each day (thanks! Clearly the ability to create your own PDF of selected pages, rather than download the entire book or volume, is a useful service; something we have been working on to make improvements whenever possible.

Today we are releasing new features that will make it easier for you to create your own articles:
  1. We've simplified the start page for the PDF Generator to make the process more efficient.
  2. We've added a Yes/No option, asking if users are interested in contributing the content they are creating to BHL's citation repository, CiteBank CiteBank is a domain-specific repository of citations and content files about biodiversity. It evolved out of a need to access content from the BHL at a more granular level. CiteBank is a work in progress and continues to develop its collection and services. By contributing title, author and subject data to the PDF you are creating, you will allow other users to gain access to this content through CiteBank.
  3. Selecting "Yes" will allow you to enter the title, author and/or keyword data we need to index the content in our citation repository. Selecting "No" will skip over this step, eliminating any opportunity for other users to benefit from the content you've already taken the time to create (please say Yes!).
  4. Drawing from the functionality provided by our colleagues on the BHL-Australia web site,, we have added the ability for you to review your page selections before you generate your PDF. You will also have the opportunity to review the title, author and/or keyword data you've provided and make any necessary corrections/edits.

We surveyed some of our most active PDF creators and received positive feedback about these changes and many good ideas about changes that could be made for the future. As always, we welcome input from our users, especially regarding the changes we make in an effort to improve BHL functionality and services. If you have any questions/comments, please do not hesitate to send us your feedback or comment directly to this post.

- Bianca Crowley, BHL Collections Coordinator

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BHL and Our Users: Megan Raby and the History of Biology

Taking a break from our miniseries of the past few months, featuring EOL Rubenstein fellows, this week we feature Megan Raby, who uses BHL to support her research involving the history of biology.

What is your title, institutional affiliation (or alternative place of employment), and area of interest?

I am a dissertator in the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My dissertation focuses on the history of American involvement in tropical biology in the Caribbean in the early twentieth century. I’m interested in the intersection of the history of biology and environmental history, and the role of science in the changing relationships between the US and the rest of the world.

How long have you been in your field of study?

I began to get interested in graduate work in the history of science while finishing my BS in Earth Sciences at Montana State University. That would make it about 7 years.

When did you first discover BHL?

I’m not quite sure when I first stumbled upon the site, but certainly over the past 4 years I have begun to use it more consciously.

What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?

It has been incredibly helpful. While we have a wonderful library system here at UW, there are times when I just need a quick look at a relatively obscure volume. Checking it online rather than running over to a library or having to ILL saves me a lot of time. Actually though, I have found it most useful to be able to search within texts, in conjunction with the physical book. For example, I went through many decades of the Annual Reports of the Smithsonian Institution while holed up in the Wisconsin Historical Society stacks, but I searched with BHL alongside. It’s easier and faster to read the physical copy, and flip between text and contents when you are sure the information you are looking for is in there. But searching the text electronically can help you find references that are not expected from the contents or index. I’ll also mention that I found a couple scanning errors while going through the Smithsonian annual reports, and BHL fixed them immediately. It was amazing. One point I want to make is that BHL doesn’t replace the original books­­––but it does make them easier to find and use. I really see physical libraries and BHL as complementary tools.

How often do you use BHL?

Depending on what phase of research I am in, it could be from a few times a month to a few times a day.

How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Selecting Pages to Download/etc.)

I usually download whole PDFs, because it is easier to search within the whole text, and take notes, this way. If I am looking for a particular piece of information, or just skimming to see if a text might be useful, then I read online. I have sometimes made custom PDFs for articles within larger volumes.

What are your favorite features/services on BHL?

I am just glad that so many of the kinds of texts I need are accessible there, from expedition reports and regional floras, to the bulletins of various botanical gardens and museums. I am happy that they can be downloaded as PDFs which makes reading, searching, and note-taking very easy. I also like the links to BHL from

If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be, or what developmental aspect would you like the BHL team to focus on next?

First, it would be amazing to be able to search in-text across multiple volumes. As it is, I either come to BHL looking for a particular text or else happen upon one through a Google search. Subject terms and titles are useful, but sometimes I am looking for very brief references within the text that would not show up in a subject term. Being able to search across the texts in BHL would help me find surprising and unexpected references. Second, it is currently a bit difficult to find articles within larger volumes unless you already know where they are. You can go through each volume of the Bulletin of the New York Botanical Garden individually and search, but you can’t see or search the titles or authors of articles within volumes using advanced search. Finally, tools similar to Google Ngrams or JSTOR Data For Research would allow you to take advantage of the texts in aggregate. I would love to be able to graph references to tropical organisms, or to terms related to ideas about tropical “biodiversity,” over time using the BHL sources.

If you had to choose one title/item in BHL that has most impacted your research, or one item that you prefer above any other in BHL, what would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. Probably the Smithsonian annual reports have been the most useful, as they helped me get a solid chronology for one part of my dissertation when I was just starting. But I will mention another “neat” source I used in the chapter I just wrote: Living Plants and Their Properties: A Collection of Essays, edited by Joseph Charles Arthur and Daniel T. MacDougal, 1898. In it, I was able to find a reprint of a talk, “Mimosa: A Typical Sensitive Plant,” that MacDougal, an American botanist, gave to a Jamaican natural history society while in the colony looking for a potential site to establish an American tropical research station. I had not known at the time that a copy of that talk was available in print, and it gave me evidence about why MacDougal thought more research needed to be done on living tropical plants in their own environments, as well as how he interacted with scientists in Jamaica. Also, the book includes some articles in which J. C. Arthur muses about whether plants can feel pain­­––but that will have to wait for another research project!

Thanks, Megan, for giving us a glimpse into your work and the role BHL plays in your research! You may be interested in some of the work Roderic Page has been doing graphing the occurrence of names in literature over time using BHL or Ryan Schenk's work visualizing taxonomic synonyms over time, as you mentioned that you would love to "graph references to tropical organisms, or to terms related to ideas about tropical “biodiversity,” over time using the BHL sources." Additionally, the Code Challenge for the Life and Literature Conference that BHL is hosting (Nov. 14-15, Chicago, IL), which encourages individuals to submit applications that provide new or interesting ways to use or display BHL data, might yield further innovative, graphical interactions with our information. Until then, we hope that BHL continues to meet your research needs as we also continue to develop and improve our services!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book of the Week: Birds and Their Nests

Have you ever been out and about, enjoying the beauty of nature, looked up in a tree, noticed a bird's nest, and wondered what species of bird made the nest? If so, and if you happen to live in Ohio, or somewhere close to it, we've got the book for you: Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio (1886), v.1-2, text by Howard Jones and illustrations by a variety of artists, including Miss Genevieve Estelle Jones, Miss Eliza J. Schulze, Mrs. N. E. Jones, Miss Nellie D. Jacob, Miss Josephine Klippart and Miss Kate Gephart. What really struck us about this book was the charming nature of the illustrations. And after reading the preface, it became quite clear that obtaining these illustrations for the work was no easy task.

In 1877, Genevieve Jones decided to create a series of plates for a publication depicting the nests and eggs of Ohio birds. She enlisted the help of close friend Eliza Schulze, and together the two women, amateur artists but having no formal training, embarked on the
venture. To make matters more complicated, the plates themselves needed to be completed as lithographs so that they could be printed for mass production - a method that neither lady was familiar with. However, after many months of practice, Miss Jones and Miss Schulze produced plates 1-3, and these, along with the accompanying text by Howard Jones, were sent to publication in 1879. Favorably received, the ladies continued their partnership.

Unfortunately, on August 17th, 1879, Genevieve Jones died of typhoid fever. Desiring to continue the work, Miss Schulze enlisted the help of Genevieve's mother, Mrs. N. E. Jones. Eventually, Miss Schulze relinquished all of her interests in the title to Mrs. Jones. Determined to move forward, Mrs. Jones undertook the responsibility for all of the illustrations herself, eventually employing three additional artists, Miss Nellie D. Jacob, Miss Josephine Klippart, and Miss Kate Gephart. Despite all the hardships encountered over the life of this publication, the authors and artists were thankful and proud of the work, remarking,

"Aside from the entertainment and instruction accompanying the study of birds in their homes, and the delineation of their various styles of architecture, it has been a great pleasure to us to continue to completion an undertaking so unfortunately interrupted at almost its very beginning. It has also been a satisfaction to us to know that, however poor our efforts, we were breaking new ground in a field, which, with the cultivation of time, will yield a rich and beautiful harvest."

For our post, we're featuring a few of the nest illustrations found in this title, identifying them for the bird species to which they correlate. However, we'll leave the last picture unidentified. Can you tell which bird species made the nest below (of course, you could always just check in the book, but where's the fun in that)? Let us know what species you think it is via Twitter (@BioDivLibrary), Facebook, or by leaving a comment on this blog. To see all of the images from this title, visit the set in Flickr: v. 1 and v. 2.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Way for You to Help BHL: Make a Donation

Funding for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) comes from a number of sources. Over the past few years, we have been reliant on the generous support of a number of different foundations, directly or through grants to individual BHL members. These foundations include the MacArthur Foundation, the Moore Foundation, the Lounsberry Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Keck Foundation. A number of the BHL members have also received grants from the United States government, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Science Foundation.

2011 marked the fourth year since the BHL portal officially went live, and in that time we've made great strides, just recently reaching 35 million scanned pages. Scientists all over the world use the library to identify and classify new species. The student in her backyard, the forestry manager and ecologist, the museum habitat builder, the artist and the designer – whether the need is for a scientific description of a spider or a beautifully illustrated drawing of an amaryllis, all can benefit from being able to search the biodiversity literature.

As part of the initial redesign of the BHL site, we are now offering the ability for individuals to support the BHL. These transactions are processed through the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' (SIL) financial system. The SIL hosts the BHL Secretariat and program staff. The Smithsonian Institution is a tax-exempt organization and gifts are tax deductible.

Click on the button on any BHL page (or click here now!) to add your donation to your shopping cart. You can donate preset amounts, or, using the "other" option, a custom amount of your choice.

It is our mission to provide free and open access to biodiversity literature for the long term. With demonstrated support from our users, both in terms of financial contributions and praise, we can continue to seek funding from major foundations, government bodies, BHL member libraries, and private donors. Donations from our users, no matter how small, go a long way in showing how important the BHL is to your work. We thank you, in advance, for considering a donation in support of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book of the Week: The Memory of a Museum Dissolved but Not Forgotten

When Musei Leveriani Explicatio, Anblica et Latina (1792-96), by George Shaw, went up for auction at Christie's Auction House in April of 2008, it was described as "one of the most comprehensive natural history collections of the eighteenth century." It sold for $3,926 USD. The work documents the specimens found in Sir Ashton Lever's museum (the Museum Leverianum), which was originally housed in his home at Alkrington Hall. The book contains 72 hand-colored engraved plates after, among others, Charles Reuben Ryley, Sarah Stone, and Philip Reinagle. With such a claim as "most comprehensive natural history collection," we had to check it out, and the quality of the illustrations blew us away. So: Voila! Here you have our book of the week!

As stated, Sir Lever's museum, which comprised approximately 28,000 items, was originally housed in his home. However, hoping to make the museum self-financing, Lever moved the collection to Leicester House in London in 1774, opening it to the public in 1775 with an admission fee of half a guinea. The museum was popular but not as financially successful as Lever had hoped. In 1784, he was forced to
sell the collection, which had been valued at £53,000. He did so by public lottery. 8,000 tickets, priced at 1 guinea each, were sold. James Parkinson won the collection with a ticket purchased by his late wife. Parkinson successfully ran the museum until May of 1806, when, despite the continued popularity of the museum, he was also forced to sell the collection by piece at an auction lasting 65 days.

While the two volumes of this work on BHL contain dozens of gorgeous illustrations (all of which you can browse at your leisure on Flickr!), we've selected just a few of our favorites to feature here. Sir Lever and Mr. Parkinson would have been proud that, though the museum itself did not endure, a record of the enchanting and impressive specimens contained within it has lasted these 200+ years. And now, thanks to BHL and the modern digital era, you don't have to spend $4,000 at auction to enjoy the marvels that one composed the Museum Leverianum! All you need is a computer and Internet connection!

Musei Leveriani Explicatio, Anblica et Latina (1792-96), by George Shaw, was contributed by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. See the images from this book on Flickr!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BHL and Our Users: EOL Rubenstein Fellow, Dr. John Sullivan

Today, we continue with our mini-series featuring EOL Rubenstein Fellows and their research activities. For this installment, meet Dr. John Sullivan, a passionate ichthyologist dedicated to discovering and describing fish species all over the world, but particularly in Africa.

What are your research interests, where you do the bulk of your work (country), and what is your institutional affiliation?

I am an evolutionary biologist who studies the phylogenetic interrelationships and evolution of freshwater fishes. I focus on two groups in particular: weakly electric fishes (Mormyridae and Gymnotiformes) which are found in Africa and South America, respectively, and catfishes (Siluriformes), which are distributed pretty much all over the world. In addition to using molecular techniques to work out phylogenies for these fishes, I describe species and work on the taxonomy of all three groups. My most recent collecting field trips have been to Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon. I am affiliated with two institutions, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where I am a Research Associate, and the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates in Ithaca, New York, where I am a Curatorial Affiliate. I live with my wife in Ithaca.

In the program, Fellowships are expected to serve as a complementary funding source to existing funding you have that supports your primary research activities. Please describe what you primary research activities are.

I used the Rubenstein Fellowship to supplement a nine-month Fulbright Research Fellowship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My Fulbright work was to make an inventory of fish species found in the vicinity of Kisangani, a city on the Congo River at the base of the Upper Congo rapids and to help build capacity at the University of Kisangani in ichthyology. As a Rubenstein Fellow, I made creation of EOL species pages for Congo River freshwater fishes a key activity of my time there. And since my return from Congo, I’ve been continuing to add many of the hundreds of photographs of fish specimens I took as we identify the specimens. We’ve already found several undescribed species from our collections, and I and my colleagues are beginning work on their descriptions.

Please describe how you use EOL to disseminate or support your primary research activities, or what your primary duties related to EOL are.

Eventually, I’d like to see great photos, descriptions and keys available online through EOL for all African freshwater fishes. We still have a lot of work to do to get there, but one can now see that this is the future. It still takes a lot of time to do careful taxonomic work, but now as soon as it’s published, we can get the name into a classification and a picture and description up online. For instance, we got the new mormyrid species Petrocephalus similis into EOL the week it was published in July. Taxonomy is a dynamic discipline: names and classifications frequently change to reflect our improving knowledge of the organisms (a sometime annoyance to end-users of taxonomies, but unavoidable). So static books are in some ways poor repositories of this information. Taxonomy and the Web are really made for each other and in hindsight something like EOL was inevitable.

How has the EOL Fellows program made a difference in your career/research?

The Rubenstein EOL Fellows program gave me an easy way to help make knowledge about African fishes available to everyone, including Africans who often have internet access but nothing in the way of libraries. The more informed my African colleagues are about their own fish fauna, the more effective our collaborations can be. While it doesn’t take the place of getting published in the primary literature, contributing to EOL tells your colleagues that you’re committed to the “broader impacts” of what we taxonomists do and that you’re at the forefront of where the field of taxonomy is headed. I am looking forward to the day when publishing a new species description and publishing content on EOL are one and the same thing. In fact, that future is already here with the journal ZooKeys that automatically exports to EOL. We plan to use that journal for our next mormyrid description.

Who is your Mentor, what is their area of interest (research activities), and how have they supported you throughout your Fellowship?

My mentor is Dr. Melanie Stiassny, curator of fishes at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Melanie has really reinvigorated the study of fish diversity of the Congo River over the past few years and has made a number of stunning discoveries in the rapids area of the Lower Congo. She was great at providing me the logistical and moral support I needed for my project in Kisangani.

How does BHL support your Fellows activities, as well as those research activities that fall outside of your duties as an EOL Fellow?

I tend to think of BHL as my personal ichthyology library (although I know there’s a bit more archived in it than that). I have retrieved dozens and dozens of species descriptions from it that are now on my personal computer for instant reference and also appended to species pages in one of my two EOL Lifedesks: and

I’ll give you a concrete example of how BHL supports my work. In systematics, the old literature is often just as important as the new. For instance, the systematics of a genus of mormyrid fish we work on was really blocked by our inability to establish the identity of Mormyrus sphekodes (now Paramormyrops sphekodes), described in 1879 by French ichthyologist H.E. Sauvage. The type specimen still exists, but is in bad condition in the Paris Museum collection. If we were to describe new species without knowing what P. sphekodes really was, we risked redescribing it under a different name and creating a synonym.

So this past May I arranged to go back to the type locality mentioned by Sauvage, the “Chutes de Doumé” on the Ogooué River in Gabon to make a new collection of it. I’m happy to report I succeeded! Before going there, I had downloaded Sauvage’s description of this fish from BHL, published in the Bulletin de la Société Philomatique de Paris. It had taken me just a few minutes to locate this paper and customize the pdf. I had it on my Kindle as I stood at the site, a place I don’t think ichthyologists had revisited since the 1870s.

When did you first discover BHL?

Some time before I started my Fellowship, probably in 2008.

What are your favorite features/services on BHL?

I love how it takes me no time at all to find a species description in some old serial like the Annals and Magazine of Natural History and, using the web interface, generate a pdf of just those pages that I want. Even if I lived in a library that had these volumes on the shelf, it would take me longer to locate what I was looking for. I can then take those pdfs BHL generates for me and attach them to the species pages I create on my Lifedesks. Now anybody in the world has instant access to the original species description in a couple of clicks!

If you could change one thing about BHL, or suggest one thing to be the next developmental priority for BHL, what would it be?

It seems like you are doing the right thing: continue to expand and add content. It is great to see a number of biodiversity journals allowing BHL to digitize their back catalog, including material still under copyright, and very encouraging to see BHL go international with BHL-Europe and other initiatives. Now that much of the really old stuff is available, it’s the material from the 1930’s – 1970’s that is notably hard to obtain if you don’t have a world-class library, so I hope more of it finds its way onto BHL in the near future.

Please describe why you think services like EOL and BHL are important for today’s scientific community.

Science is all about disseminating knowledge and building upon what has come before, yet so much of our knowledge of plants and animals has remained inaccessible to those who could make use of it. This has been a big part of the “taxonomic impediment.” BHL is radically changing this status quo and democratizing access to knowledge about biodiversity. Now that access to the works of so many great 18th and 19th Century biologists is an easy affair, I expect we’ll see them cited a lot more in the modern literature. In this way, BHL is contributing to the continuity of biodiversity science.

Do you have a favorite book in BHL, or a book that has most supported your research activities or EOL responsibilities?

My favorite book in BHL would have to be the four volumes of George Albert Boulenger’s Catalogue of the Fresh-Water Fishes of Africa, published from 1909 to 1916. This work remains the single-most important publication on African ichthyology. While many more species have been described in the subsequent century and generic names have undergone changes, it is still a remarkably useful resource for identifying African fishes. Until BHL made pdfs of all four volumes freely available, you had to pay dearly even for a reprinted version. Now all my African colleagues who never had these advantages have the pdfs on their laptops.

Thank you, Dr. Sullivan, for taking the time to give us a glimpse into your world and research, and for articulating how important BHL has been to your endeavors. As we continue to grow our collection, we hope to be able to establish more and more relationships with publishers and provide access to a plethora of in-copyright materials, freeing, as you so eloquently describe, this information from the static written page to the future of dynamic electronic access for the world.

Information on the photo from Dr. Sullivan: "The photo is of me on the Ogooué River in Gabon, Africa in May of this year. The site is a famous one for African ichthyology: it is the "Chutes de Doumé" from which H.-E. Sauvage described the catfish Doumea typica and the mormyrid electric fish Mormyrus sphekodes - now Paramormyrops sphekodes - (among others) in an 1879 publication published in the Bulletin de la Société philomathique de Paris, a pdf of which I downloaded from BHL!"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book of the Week: Mollusks, Naples, and Anton Dohrn

We're all about mollusks in our book of the week this week, with our featured title being one brimming with some really spectacular watercolors by Comingio Merculiano. What, you might ask, is the title of this exceptional work? I Cefalopodi Viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (Sistematica) (1896). While the copy on BHL consists of only the plates from this title, the entire volume (with text) constitutes the 23rd monograph in the series Fauna and Flora of the Gulf of Naples, published by the Stazione Zoologica. This particular monograph, written by Giuseppe Jatta, presents, as the name suggests, detailed information on the Cephalopods of the Mediterranean.

The Fauna and Flora series was the brain child of Anton Dohrn, prominent German Darwinist and founder of the Stazione Zoologica in Naples. In the winter of 1868, Dorhn and his colleague Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai conceived of the idea of a global network of zoological stations, in which scientists could visit various stations around the world, collect material, and conduct research in ready laboratories. The first of these stations, "Stazione Zoologica di Messina," consisted of two rented rooms in Messina, but impediments such as the absence of a library (oh, how they would have loved BHL!) and permanent trained personnel made it quickly apparent that the idea was wrought with difficulties.

In the 1870s, Dohrn moved the location of the station to Naples, as the breadth of biological richness in the Gulf of Naples, and the proximity to a large university, made it an extremely attractive location. This time, the station was a much greater success! Encouraged, Dohrn decided it was time to move on to another pet project, and one for which the Station was well-equipped to support. Burdened by the lack of systematic studies on marine fauna in the Mediterranean, Dohrn developed the Fauna and Flora of the Gulf of Naples project, assigning groups of marine organisms to subject experts with instructions to write a monograph on each of the assigned groups. Each monograph was to deal with the morphology, development, systematics or ecology of the topic assigned. Disappointed by the quality of scientific illustrations accompanying many of the monographs, Dohrn also hired professional artists to create illustrations for the works. As Dohrn explained in v. 48 of Nature,

"I wished to lay great stress upon illustrations. In looking over the existing iconography of the lower marine animals, and comparing them with those of the terrestrial animals, the inferiority of existing illustrations of the former was apparent, and especially as regards the reproduction of the colouring of the living marine organisms. Colour in animals may have relatively little scientific interest compared with structure, nevertheless it has a meaning, and its good reproduction facilitates greatly the recognition of the species. Besides, practical reasons spoke very much in favor of good coloured illustrations as a means to facilitate the sale of the monographs, which were to be published on subscription, and as the safest way for covering the great expenses which were to be incurred."

The first artist selected was Merculiano, who began his collaboration in 1885, and it is thanks to the incredible talent of this artist that we have such a glorious collection of illustrations to present this week! Indeed, Dohrn himself attributed the success of the series in large part to the quality of the illustrations contained within the volumes, which were reproduced for the publications via lithographs by Werner and Winter. We're certainly glad Dohrn decided to incur the costs of quality scientific artwork, and we hope you enjoy the few images we've selected for this post. Be sure to check out the entire collection of illustrations from this work in Flickr!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New and Improved Social Media Interactions

If you're active in social media, chances are you've already discovered our presence on a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest and Twitter (for a list of all of our social media accounts, visit our public wiki). You can now also see linked icons to each of our social media platforms on the lower left-hand side of BHL’s home page.

Stay connected with BHL via our social media buttons on the homepage.

We love the way social media has allowed us to connect and interact with users in a way we couldn't before, including sharing thousands of beautiful images with you, conducting daily trivia contests, and hearing from you about what you like about BHL and what you'd like to see improved or added to our site or collection. As great as this has been, we think we can do more. So, our technical development team has been busy providing you with even more ways to socially interact with BHL content.
Cue the social media icons. As we mentioned before, on the lower left-hand side of the BHL page, you now see icons for our social media outlets. But in the BHL website header you will also see Facebook "Like" and Twitter "Tweet" buttons.

Tell your friends that you like BHL via Twitter or Facebook by clicking the "Like" or "Tweet" buttons in the header while on the BHL homepage.

What do these buttons do? They allow you to share aspects of BHL that you like with your friends and followers with a single click. If you're on the BHL homepage and you click the Facebook "Like" button, your profile will indicate that you "like" BHL. Similarly, if you click on the "Tweet" button, you can tweet the BHL link to your followers.

But perhaps this isn't enough. Say you want to "like" or share a specific title, volume, or page with your friends and followers. All you have to do is find the content that you want to “Like” or “Tweet” and click on the Facebook "Like" or Twitter "Tweet" button while on that page in BHL to send a title, volume, or page specific tweet or page post.

Find a specific title or volume in BHL and click on the "Like" or "Tweet" button in the BHL header to send a tweet or FB page post linking directly to that title or volume. 

Go to a specific page in BHL and click the "Like" or "Tweet" button in the BHL header to send a tweet or FB page post linking directly to that page.
We think that's pretty cool, and we hope it will allow you to share your serendipitous moments of awesome biodiversity literature discovery with the world!

If you have any thoughts or comments about these developments, or other ideas that you'd like to see implemented, don't hesitate to send us some feedback or, better yet, tell us via Facebook or Twitter!

By Gilbert Borrego, BHL Library Technician

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's in a Logo? Or Rather, What's in Our Logo?

If you've visited our site in the past few days, or follow our blog, you know that BHL now has a new and improved logo! We have our friends at BHL-Australia to thank for this exciting new development, as our logo is a modified version of their own eye-catching design. Before the BHL-Au logo designer, Simon O'Shea, left the BHL-Au project for a new assignment with Lonely Planet, he contributed his creative talent to adapt his original design for our use. He also provided style guidelines that can help extend the use of the logo globally. For access to files of our new logo, or the guidelines surrounding its use, visit out Logo page on our Public Wiki.

Adopting a single image to represent the entirety of what the BHL is and stands for is no simple task. Our new logo deliberately moves away from the literal double helix, vine and butterfly we once used to evoke a broader sense of what the BHL is about in the abstract. That being said, we found that many of our colleagues saw a variety of different things in the simple lines of our new logo. This made us think that it's time for a BHL inkblot test! We'll tell you what several members of our team have seen in the logo, and then you tell us what you see. And don't worry - we won't be psychologically analyzing you based on what you see. Well, not that much, anyway...;-)

Inkblot Test 1: The Book

We're starting off with the most obvious form: an open book with pages turning.

Inkblot Test 2: The Rabbit

Several of our colleagues thought that the logo looked like an open book with rabbit's ears peaking up over the top.

Inkblot Test 3: A Bird in Flight

For some of our Staff, the three overlapping symmetrical shapes in our logo looked like a motion-capture shot of a bird's wings in flight.

Inkblot Test 4: Sydney Opera House

Some have even seen shapes reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House in the branching curves of our logo.

Inkblot Test 5: The Cat

The arched shapes of the logo also bring to mind a cat's ears and whiskers for some staff members.

Inkblot Test 6: Leaves

Besides the "leaves" of a book, our new logo could also be construed as the leaves of a tree.

Now it's your turn! What do you see in the shapes of our logo? Tell us by leaving a comment on this post, sending us feedback, sending us a Tweet, or Posting on our Wall. If we get enough response, we'll do a follow-up post detailing the many other forms our users see in the blue depths of our logo.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book of the Week: Mantell and the Dinosaurs

We often take it for granted that humans have always known about the existence of the dinosaurs, and that there was never a dispute that they could be anything but the prehistoric giants that we now know them to be. However, this is not the case. As far back as the early 1800s, people had no idea that an entire era of awe-inspiring creatures had lived and died on their planet. Dinosaur fossils that were discovered were attributed to other things, such as the 1676 discovery of most probably a Megalosaurus thigh bone by English museum curator Robert Plot, who believed that thigh bone belonged to a giant man. The first true breakthrough for the dinosaurs, however, occurred in 1822 when Gideon Mantell and his wife discovered and identified the first fossil teeth, which belonged to the dinosaur Mantell named Iguanodon.

Gideon Mantell, thanks to this discovery and his tireless work in geology and paleontology, is now recognized as the man who started the scientific study of dinosaurs. Beginning life as a doctor, Mantell spent his free time collecting and studying fossils that he found in the marl pits of Hamsey. His hobby became more than a pastime when, in 1813, he began corresponding and sharing his fossil shell discoveries with acclaimed naturalist and illustrator, James Sowerby. In December of 1813, Mantell was elected as a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and in 1815, he published his first paper on the characteristics of fossils discovered in the Lewes area.

It was 1822, however, when the important discovery of the Iguanodon teeth occurred. Encouraged by the stunning success of his publications to date (including a book on the geology of Sussex, for which King George IV of England requested four copies), Mantell began showing other scientists and naturalists the fossil teeth he had found. Most believed they were simply fairly recent fish or mammal teeth, and Mantell was mocked for his assertions to the contrary. Even Georges Cuvier mis-identified the fossils, claiming that they were the teeth of a rhinoceros. Eventually, however, Mantell was vindicated, and the great human love affair with the dinosaurs began.

One of Mantell's many important works was A Pictorial Atlas of Fossil Remains (1850), which consists of 74 hand-colored engraved plates selected from James Parkinson's Organic Remains of a Former World and Edmund Artis' Antediluvian Phytology. Mantell wrote the descriptions for the plates, which include illustrations of fossilized wood, plants and fruits, corals, shells, insects, turtles, sharks, elk, and many more. While you can see just four of the many lovely illustrations from our book of the week in this post, be sure to check out our Flickr site to see all of the illustrations!

Sadly, the later years of Mantell's life were not entirely happy. In 1833, when Mantell relocated to Brighton, his medical practice suffered, rendering him almost destitute. His house was turned into a museum in hopes of securing additional financial support, but Mantell's habit of waiving the entrance fee doomed the museum to failure. In 1841, Mantell suffered serious injuries as a result of a carriage accident which left him crippled and in constant pain. As might be expected from a true scientist, he continued his studies diligently despite the accident, publishing many more books and papers until his death in 1852 due to an overdose of Opium. His legacy, however, remains, and thanks to his tireless perseverance and refusal to accept the dismissive opinions of others, we can now stand in awe of the magnificent era of the dinosaurs.

This week's book of the week, A Pictorial Atlas of Fossil Remains (1850), with descriptions by Gideon Mantell, was contributed by Harvard University, MCZ, Ernst Mayr Library.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Features, New Logo

BHL has made some big changes today. Our site now features a new logo, a new "Donate" button and enhanced social media functionality that significantly improves the way you can interact with and share BHL content.

New Opportunities to Support and Share

We know you love BHL, and from the plethora of feedback that we've received from users over the years, we know there are many of you that want to help support us. In light of this feedback, we've added new "Donate" functionality to the BHL. By clicking on the "Donate" button at the top of your screen, you have the opportunity to provide tax-deductible financial gifts to BHL that will help support continuing development and scanning. A very warm and heartfelt thanks goes out to our users in advance for checking out this new functionality and considering a gift of support.

You can also show your support of the BHL for free by liking us on Facebook or tweeting about us on Twitter! For some time now, we have been building a presence on a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter (for a list of all of our social media accounts, visit our public wiki). We've now added new linked icons to each of our social media platforms on the left-hand navigation bar of the BHL website.

We love the way social media has allowed us to connect and interact with users in ways we couldn't before, including sharing thousands of beautiful images with you, conducting daily trivia contests, and hearing from you about what you like about BHL and what you'd like to see improved or added to our site or collection. As great as this has been, we think we can do more. So, our technical development team has been busy providing you with even more ways to socially interact with BHL content.

With the new Facebook "like" button and the Twitter "tweet" buttons:

you now have the opportunity to "like" or "tweet" about specific titles, volumes, or pages you find in our collection. Go to your favorite title in the BHL and try clicking on one of the buttons shown above. You'll have a new quick and easy way to share about BHL content via your preferred social media platform. More detailed information about our new social media features is forthcoming in a future blog post. Stay tuned.

The New Face of BHL

The new features we've added to our website do more to allow our users to interact directly with and support the BHL project. To highlight these changes we've adopted a new logo. Working together with our BHL-Australia colleagues, we decided to let go of our old image and adopt a sleeker, more compact one. With this new logo we are putting a fresh "face" forward to welcome the future of exciting new developments for the BHL. Expect more information on our new logo, its origins, and the process we went through to create it, in a later blog post.

As always, we want to hear from you!

If you have any thoughts or comments about today's changes, or other ideas that you'd like to see implemented, don't hesitate to send us some feedback or, better yet, tell us via Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for all your interest and support of the BHL. With your help, we will continue to grow and improve for the long road ahead.

-Bianca Crowley, BHL Collections Coordinator