Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Birthday John James Audubon

John James Audubon, by John Syme, 1826
Today in 1785, John James Audubon was born. A famous French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, Audubon is responsible for one of the most celebrated ornithological books ever published, Birds of America. Baron Cuvier praised this work as "the most splendid monuments which art has erected in honor of ornithology."

Audubon was born Jean Rabin, the illegitimate son of French naval officer Lieutenant Jean Audubon, in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue on his father's sugar plantation. In 1803, after living in France with his father for his youth, Audubon immigrated to the United States, changing his name to John James Audubon. During his early years in America, though pursuing several business ventures with his father and other partners, Audubon continuously honed his natural history skills, painstakingly studying nature and drawing his observations, with a particular affinity for birds. Though his business success was tumultuous (he even landed in debtor's prison in 1819 and earned barely enough money to support his family through his sketches), in 1820 Audubon finally started an expedition up the Mississippi in an endeavor to paint all the birds of North America for eventual publication. This ambition later became Birds of America.

Birds of America represents more than 14 years of field observations and drawings by Audubon. In 1826, unable to gain support for publication in America, Audubon traveled to England, where his work was a great success, and he was able to raise enough funds to begin publication. Birds of America contains 435 hand-colored, life-sized prints of 497 bird species and presents a total of more than 700 North American bird species. The cost of printing the entire work was $115,640, the equivalent of more than $2,000,000 today. Published in sections from 1827-38, it includes illustrations of 6 now-extinct birds species, including the Passenger Pigeon and Great Auk. 119 copies of the work are known to survive, and The Economist estimates that 5 of the 10 highest prices ever paid for printed works were paid for copies of this title. The most recent sale of a complete set occurred in 2010 for approximately $11.5 million.

Several titles by Audubon or based on his journals can be found in BHL. One of our favorites, and our book of the week, is The Life of John James Audubon, the Naturalist, a biography of his life, edited by his widow, Lucy Bakewell Audubon. Audubon's memoir, the title consists largely of abstracts from his journals. Today, a century and a half after this great man's death, we salute his accomplishments and the contributions he made to natural history. We hope you'll enjoy learning about him in our book of the week as much as we have. 

You can see digital versions of the 435 elephant folios and the accompanying text in Birds of America from the University of Pittsburgh. Explore the 1840-44 edition of the work, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries, in BHL.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A New & Improved BHL Search & Interface

In October, 2011, BHL Staff conducted a usability test of the BHL US/UK portal, assessing its functionality and comparing it with that of the BHL-Australia portal. While several recommendations arose from that exercise, two of the most emphatic were a need to improve the BHL search functionality and a desire to make the BHL US/UK portal more aesthetically pleasing.

You spoke, and we listened. Today, we're excited to announce the release of a new and improved BHL interface and search capability! 

As far as improving the aesthetics of our site go, we couldn't think of a better approach than incorporating some of the amazing Flickr images our users have grown to love. On the new BHL homepage, you'll now see a selection of the over 29,000 illustrations in the BHL Flickr, with the option to view more of the collection in Flickr (by clicking on the "View Additional Images" link) or the specific image within BHL (by clicking on the actual image).

We've also updated the social aspect of the site by including our @BioDivLibrary Twitter stream and relocating our social media buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and Flickr to the homepage header for better accessibility. You'll also find a new and improved Featured Collections box, which will highlight special collections of BHL materials, particularly those included in the BHL iTunes U.

Search Improvements

While we know aesthetics are important, we also know that the meat and potatoes of the recommendations from our usability test center around a need to improve the BHL search.

The new enhanced search addresses metadata only, not OCR text within a book or scientific names.  Think of this as a better search across library metadata.  The search function is a Google-like search that provides fuzzier searching across titles, authors, subjects and dates, while still allowing the exact searches that many of our users have come to love, as indicated in user surveys. Search results are returned according to a relevance ranking, and can be sorted by that ranking, by year, by author, or by date published.

Some example searches now enabled include:

You can also do more complicated searches by clicking on the "Books/Journals" search tab to include volume information and editions into your search criteria.

These search improvements have also been made to BHL's APIs, including its OpenURL resolver, enabling developers easier access to BHL's data for inclusion in third party applications.

Spend some time with our new site and feel free to give us your feedback by commenting on this post, sending us website feedback, or sending messages to us on Twitter or Facebook! We know you’ll be as excited about these improvements as we are.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day 2012!

Happy Earth Day 2012!

Here at BHL, we believe we can all make a difference to improve the health of our planet and its biodiversity. By providing researchers (and the public) with free access to literature about the world's species, we're empowering them with the knowledge necessary to better understand and protect life on earth. If you believe in the importance of this mission as much as we do, consider giving a gift to BHL. Together, we can make a difference for generations to come.

We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than by showcasing its rich diversity of life, particularly through the brilliant illustrations we have in our collection. Thus, below we present some of our favorite (and most popular) images. You can find these, and nearly 30,000 more, free images by visiting our Flickr profile.

Now it's your turn. How are you celebrating Earth Day this year?

Created with flickr slideshow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book of the Week: The Birth of Microscopic Plant Anatomy

There are groundbreaking biodiversity works that most of us are familiar with, including Systema Naturae and On the Origin of Species. Then there are other works that, though just as monumental for their impact on scientific knowledge, are less universally known than others. One such book is Anatomy of Plants, a seventeenth century work by Nehemiah Grew.

Many people have probably never heard of this work, and most probably have no idea what contribution it made to scientific discovery. Grew's masterpiece, however, is significant not just because it depicts the first microscopic descriptions of pollen, but also because it is the first publication to note that a plant's stamen is a male organ, with pollen as the seed. In fact, this work earned Grew, who was given the title "The Father of Plant Physiology," the distinction of being one of the most celebrated scientists of the seventeenth century, and, together with Malpighi, he is considered the co-founder of plant anatomy.

Anatomy of Plants, published in 1682, was divided into four books, entitled Anatomy of Vegetables Begun, Anatomy of Roots, Anatomy of Trunks, and Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, Fruits and Seeds. The work was largely a collection of Grew's previous publications, many of which were presented to the Royal Society in the 1670s. Within the work, Grew describes the key differences between the morphology of stem and root, and, as previously mentioned, details the microscopic characteristics of pollen and hypothesized that stamen are the male organs of plants.

Despite the critical importance of the discoveries presented in this work, what is more likely to draw your attention to Grew's Anatomy are the 82 exquisite engravings contained within. The illustrations depict in unprecedented detail the internal subtleties of roots, stems, tree trunks, and, not least of all, seeds. We've presented a few of our favorites in this post, but be sure to check out the entire collection on our Flickr account.

In 2006, a copy of Anatomy of Plants sold at auction for $7,557, nearly $5,000 over the estimate. Fortunately, you don't have to have the budget of a used car to enjoy this work. As you've come to expect, it's freely available in beautiful high resolution quality from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (in fact, it's title #4 in BHL!). So be sure to spend some time with this title and add it to your repertoire of critical natural history works. It deserves to be among the Greats, keeping Darwin and Linnaeus company.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BHL and Our Users: Anders Hagborg

This week, we're proud to feature Anders Hagborg, an associate at the Field Museum with an academic background in theoretic and applied physics. Though his professional career centered on information technology, he took up an interest in botany after retirement and currently applies this newfound passion to work at the Field Museum. As an additional note of interest, Anders grew up, studied and worked in Sweden until moving to Chicago in 1985.

What is your title, institutional affiliation (or alternative place of employment), and area of interest?
I am an (unpaid) associate at the Botany department at the Field Museum, Chicago. I work gathering data about liverworts and hornworts. I am part of a team that is producing a global checklist for these phyla.

How long have you been in your field of study?
Since 2005

When did you first discover BHL?
Probably in 2007 (It seems that I have always used it)

What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?
It is one of the repositories that I frequently use. BHL is probably the most important one - the others are Reál Jardin Botanico, Madrid, Gallica (Bibliothéque numérique), Google books, and some others less frequently.

How often do you use BHL?
At least a few times every month – sometimes much more than that.

How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Selecting Pages to Download for a custom PDF/Downloading High Resolution Images/Generating Taxonomic Bibliographies/etc.)
Almost exclusively PDF download.

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?
It would be great if BHL could include other repositories in the search so I don’t have to search Madrid, Gallica, Google books and other sites separately. I like the BHL feedback format better than the other ones, especially better than Google books, which doesn’t handle periodicals well.

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 is really not the way I look at it. I have accessed and used several hundred different items at BHL and use many of them over and over again, but it does not make sense to single any of them out.

Thank you, Anders, for taking the time to share some of your professional life with us. We appreciate feedback from our users, as we repeatedly use it to improve our services and guide our developmental priorities.

Learn more about Anders' passions, liverworts (Marchantiophyta) and hornworts (Anthocerotophyta), in EOL, and check out this lovely illustration of liverworts from Kunstformen der Natur in BHL:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

BHL featured in Digital Public Library of America Hackathon

2012.04.05-IMG_1484BHL is one of the first key data sets that is being used in the test bed for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Not sure what the DPLA is? Well, it's a bold initiative to create a large scale digital library for the United States and the world.

Why is BHL involved in DPLA? Well, BHL is all about access, so as many platforms as we can distribute BHL is important. Also, Chris Freeland and I share duties as co-chairs of the DPLA's Technical Aspects Workstream. Our work with DPLA has brought together a number of BHL threads, including our work with the Internet Archive (a provider of content to DPLA) and  Europeana (associated with DPLA and a key partner for our global BHL member, BHL Europe). 

Also, BHL content will be an important part of DPLA and, for the purpose of the launch of the initial DPLA platform, BHL records were a key data set. About 20 hackers, coders and associated geeks joined the fun. In addition to the invited hackers, the DPLA Tech Dev team (see members below ). 

Notes from the meeting can be found on Pirate Pad). Alessandra Morgan also did a great blog post for the DPLA blog. A quick quote:
The DPLA technical development team and Technical Aspects workstream hosted the first DPLA Hackathon yesterday, bringing together a group of approximately twenty programmers, developers, and hackers to begin testing the prototype DPLA platform and building apps on top of it. The hackathon will continue as a virtual event; everyone is invited to build something using the DPLA platform. Materials can be found at the DPLA Hackathon Github, and notes from yesterday’s event can be found on PiratePad. Technical questions regarding the DPLA Platform can be directed at the dev team, which can be reached at

Rachel Frick (Digital Library Federation) and Margy Avery (MIT Press) joined us for the day as observers from the Content and Scope workstream of the DPLA. Maura Marx and Rebekah Heacock (from the DPLA Secretariat) were also in attendance.

The Dev core team at DPLA consists of:
  • Nick Caramello, Pod Consulting
  • Daniel Collis-Puro, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Paul Deschner, Harvard Library Innovation Lab
  • Sebastian Diaz, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Kim Dulin, Harvard Library Innovation Lab
  • Matt Phillips, Harvard Library Innovation Lab
  • David Weinberger, Harvard Library Innovation Lab/Berkman Center

Friday, April 6, 2012

Introducing the Theodore Roosevelt iTunes U Collection

When most people think of Theodore Roosevelt, they think of the twenty-sixth President of the United States. Taking office in 1901 at the age of 42 after the assassination of William McKinley, he is the youngest president in American history. As President, Roosevelt is known for his work in the Progressive Movement, completing the Panama Canal, and negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. However, while many remember him as the politician, Theodore Roosevelt was also an accomplished natural historian, touring in Africa and Europe and leading a major expedition to the Amazon jungles.

To honor this remarkable man, we've dedicated our newest iTunes U collection to him. Our iTunes U provider page, which offers free access to a selection of BHL books organized according to theme, previously consisted of 8 collections, including Extinct Species and The Curious and the Bizarre. We're thrilled to add the Theodore Roosevelt collection, containing 18 titles by Roosevelt, to our repertoire. To celebrate this release, we're featuring one of the books as our Book of the Week: African Games Trails (1910).

Roosevelt's expedition to Africa in 1909 was a major endeavor, conducted in large part to collect specimens for the Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History. During the venture, Roosevelt and his team collected more than 11,397 animals, ranging from insects to big game animals. Roosevelt also used the expedition to interact with many native people and local leaders. A detailed account of the expedition, including descriptions of the flora and fauna he collected, are presented in his book African Game Trails, published in 1910.

The work includes photographs taken by Roosevelt's son, Kermit (to whom it is dedicated), as well as drawings by Philip R. Goodwin, an American artist best known for illustrating The Call of the Wild. African Game Trails contains accounts of such activities as lion hunting on the Kapiti Plains, encounters with the giant rhinoceros of the Lado, and the expedition's trek down the Nile. Some of our favorite illustrations from the title include a herd of buffalo gazing with curiosity at the expedition team and a lion charging across the plain. A final item of interest worth noting is a map detailing the expedition's route.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

BHL founding Project Director Tom Garnett retires

As many of you know, BHL Project Director Tom Garnett officially retired on March 24, 2012.

Tom oversaw the growth of BHL from the idea of coordinated digitization by Natural History and Botanical Garden libraries into a cooperative of fourteen US and UK members and global nodes in Europe, Australia, China, Brazil, and Egypt.

He also left an important mark at the Smithsonian Libraries, where he had previously served as Associate Director.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough honored Tom with a Letter of Commendation which was presented at during a special event at the Smithsonian Castle, March 23, 2012.

We wish Tom well in the future and still expect to seem him around the world of biodiversity and libraries!

In other changes at BHL ...
Nancy E. Gwinn, Director, Smithsonian Libraries, was elected chair of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Steering Committee for a two-year term at its annual meeting in Boston on March 16. In this position, Dr. Gwinn will guide the Committee as it oversees the continuing expansion and development of the digital collection, which now numbers over 100,000 volumes and nearly 40 million pages of biodiversity-related publications. Other newly elected officers include Vice Chair Constance Rinaldo, Librarian, Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, and Secretary, Susan Fraser, Director, Mertz Library, New York Botanical Garden.

Martin R. Kalfatovic, Associate Director for Digital Services at the Smithsonian, has assumed the position of BHL Program Director (he was formerly Deputy Director) and will work with the pan-BHL team of Chris Freeland (Technical Director, Missouri Botanical Garden), William Ulate (Global BHL Coordinator, Missouri Botanical Garden), Grace Costantino (Smithsonian Libraries, BHL Project Manager), and Bianca Crowley (Smithsonian Libraries, BHL Collections Coordinator).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

BHL and Our Users: Joachim Ladwig

Today, we are excited to present Joachim Ladwig, a fossil collector in Germany with a passion for marine vertebrates. Though an amateur researcher, he has published a myriad of papers in amateur journals and holds among his repertoire of fossil finds the remains of a plesiosaur!

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

I have no title or institutional affiliation! I work as a caretaker for a housing company in northern Germany and operate only as an amateur researcher.

I was born in 1962 and live in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. I’m a member of the “Gesellschaft für Geschiebekunde” (Society for Glacial Erratic Boulders), a cooperation of scientists (mainly from the Universities of Hamburg and Greifswald) and amateur collectors researching erratic boulders, which are the most important source of fossils in northern Germany.

How long have you been in your field of study?
I have been collecting fossils for more than 20 years. Soon after I began collecting, I undertook research (as an amateur) on fossil marine vertebrates, mainly from the Cretaceous period. One field of interest is sea-urchins, but I am especially interested in sharks and bony fish and their main fossil remains: teeth.

Some years ago I found the remains of a very great plesiosaur in a chalk-pit here in northern Germany. Since then I have been looking for literature on marine reptiles (mosasaurs and plesiosaurs), too.

When did you first discover BHL?
I think it was about 2 or 3 years ago, when I used Google to search for pdf-files of scientific papers on the internet.

What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?
Because it was often very difficult to get old literature (and when you get it photocopied from your library the quality of the picture is miserable), it’s a great improvement to have access to pdf-files of these antique papers. To determine, for example, which species of fossil shark a find belongs to, it is necessary to take a look at the original descriptions. When you don’t have direct access to a university library, BHL is sometimes the only way to see these publications!

One concrete example: For 20 years I tried to find out which species the cow shark teeth in the northern German chalk belong to – Hexanchus microdon or Hexanchus gracilis. In BHL I found the original papers in which these species where described. Now I am very sure of the identification: My fossil cow shark teeth belong to Hexanchus microdon.

How often do you use BHL?
Several times a month.

How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Selecting Pages to Download for a custom PDF/Downloading High Resolution Images/Generating Taxonomic Bibliographies/etc.)
Generally, I download the whole pdf-file. I even print important papers. It’s not comfortable for me to read on the monitor; I prefer to read it on a piece of paper!

In the last years I have collected a whole hard-disk-drive of pdf files. They are not all from BHL, but many of the important and/or old ones are.

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?
Very often I find that whole volumes of a journal are scanned as one file, but usually I only need one short paper. So I have to download an immense amount of data (806 pages!), while I cite only a small portion of it (for example, the work I cite in the next paragraph). It would be very useful to divide these big scans into smaller ones!

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?
I had looked for a long time for this paper:

“DAVIS, J.W. (1887): The fossil fishes of the Chalk of Mount Lebanon, in Syria. – The Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society, 3 (Series 2): 457 - 636, Taf. 14 – 38; Dublin”

I found it at BHL.

It contains the original description of Hexanchus gracilis, a species of cow shark, which is often found in the upper cretaceous layers in northern Europe. I was trying to find out if it is a valid species or not. The plates in this work are very beautiful. They are not only of scientific interest, but are an art, too. I’m very pleased that I can use a reproduction from one of these plates for a planned publication.


Thank you, Joachim, for your contribution to the scientific realm and your willingness to share some of it with us! We are aware that article-level access to our content is a critical development for BHL, as it is one of our most user-requested improvements. We are currently working on models that will allow this level of access, but for the time-being you can find many BHL articles in our article repository Citebank.

Be sure to check out a bibliography of some of Joachim Ladwig's publications below. We're thrilled to know that BHL is helping him, and many others, identify and learn more about the fossilized remains of the magnificent biodiversity that lived ages ago.

A list of Joachim Ladwig's former publications in amateur journals:

  • CLAUßEN, M. & LADWIG, J. (1997): Das Kieferfragment eines Mosasauriers aus dem Obercampan von Kronsmoor. - Der Geschiebesammler, 30 (3): 127 - 130, 3 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (1993): Fund eines Zahnes von Hexanchus gracilis. - Der Geschiebesammler, 26 (4): 161 - 163, 2 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (1994): Haizähne aus Oberkreide- und Dan-Geschieben. - Der Geschiebesammler, 27 (3): 105 - 110, 4 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (1995): Haizähne aus dem Obercampan von Kronsmoor. - Der Geschiebesammler, 28 (4): 143 - 152, 9 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (1997): Mosasaurierreste aus Schleswig-Holstein. - Fossilien, 1997 (6): 358 - 362, 8 Abb., 1 Zeichn.; Korb.
  • LADWIG, J. (1998): Fischreste aus dem Echinodermenkonglomerat. – Der Geschiebesammler, 31 (4): 177 – 186, 3 Abb., 1 Taf.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2000a): Haizähne aus dem Obercampan von Kronsmoor. Teil 2. – Der Geschiebesammler, 33 (2): 77 – 90, 3 Abb., 3 Taf.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2000b): Fischzähne aus dem Obercampan von Kronsmoor. – Der Geschiebesammler, 33 (3): 125 – 130, 4 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2002): Möglicher Neufund von Protoxynotus misburgiensis HERMAN 1975. – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 30 (2): 36 – 41, 1 Abb.; Hannover.
  • LADWIG, J. (2003): Erstnachweis eines Zahnes von Ptychodus latissimus AGASSIZ 1843 aus dem Geschiebe. – Der Geschiebesammler, 36 (2): 43 – 46, 1 Abb.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2006a): Haizähne aus dem Turonium von Wüllen. – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 34 (1): 1 – 9, 12 Abb.; Hannover.
  • LADWIG, J. (2006b): Fundbericht: Haizahn Cretolamna appendiculata aus Misburg. – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 34 (1): 10 – 11, 1 Abb.; Hannover.
  • LADWIG, J. (2008): Reste des rätselhaften kreidezeitlichen Fisches Cylindracanthus cretaceus (DIXON, 1850) aus Kronsmoor (Schleswig-Holstein). – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 36 (1): 12 – 22, 7 Abb.; Hannover.
  • LADWIG, J. (2009): Anmerkungen zur Seeigel-Gattung Bolbaster aus dem Danium von Dänemark. – Der Geschiebesammler, 42 (4): 165 – 173, 2 Abb., 2 Taf.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2011a): Erstnachweis des Haies Gladioserratus aptiensis (PICTET, 1865) (Neoselachii, Hexanchiformes) aus der nordwestdeutschen Oberkreide. – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 39 (3): 99 – 104, 3 Abb.; Hannover.
  • LADWIG, J. (2011b): Der seltene Seeigel Galeaster bertrandi SEUNES, 1889 aus einem Dan-Geschiebe von Norderbrarup. – Der Geschiebesammler, 44 (2): 47 – 51, 1 Abb., 1 Taf.; Wankendorf.
  • LADWIG, J. (2012): Eine Exkursion ins Maastrichtium und Danium der Insel Seeland, Dänemark. – Arbeitskreis Paläontologie Hannover, 40 (1): 3 – 12, 9 Abb.; Hannover.
  • TÜXEN, H. & LADWIG, J. (1998): Ein Mosasaurierzahn aus einem weißgefleckten Feuerstein. – Der Geschiebesammler, 31 (3): 137 – 141, 2 Abb.; Wankendorf.

Some publications available for free download:

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Life as a BHL Staffer: Trish Rose-Sandler

As Data Analyst for the Biodiversity Heritage Library, I am involved in all things related to data which in a digital library project can include a variety of responsibilities. I’m a part of the BHL technical team based at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, Missouri along with Chris Freeland, William Ulate, Mike Lichtenberg and David Heskett.

The “Orange Bag” problem and Citebank

Relative to other BHL staff, I came kind of late to the BHL project having only been on board since September of 2010. One of my first tasks at BHL was to deal with what was referred to as the “Orange Bag” problem. For years there had been a growing backlog of data that couldn’t be ingested via the standard BHL workflow (i.e. scanned via Internet Archive Scribe machines, uploaded to Internet Archive portal, then ingested into the BHL portal) due to the format of the data. Data in the orange bag consisted primarily of simple digital objects (e.g. single pdf of an article) versus the more structured complex objects (e.g. multiple image files for each page of a scanned book or journal) that we typically ingest into the BHL portal. Files were given to BHL on CDs or on hard drives and stored at BHL in, literally, a physical orange bag.

Upon arrival I immediately moved the data from the more vulnerable physical media to permanent storage on a network server. The Citebank platform, built in Drupal and utilizing the Biblio module, was just beginning to be developed by our programmer David at that time so I was able to work with him to identify the types of functionality needed for the administrative importer and for the end user interface.

As part of my work with data ingest into Citebank I have developed a data specifications document which helps guide contributors on which citation data is needed depending on the publication type (eg. article, book, conference proceeding, etc) and how the values in those fields need to be formatted (e.g. lastName, firstName). In some cases, our contributor’s data cannot conform to these guidelines. I then work to normalize the data as much as possible before ingest so that it can interoperate well with existing data in the system and result in more effective search results for our end users.

Citebank has been public since early 2011 and continues to grow significantly in the number of citations ingested whether via manual processes or automated processes using the OAI-PMH protocol. Citebank now contains well over 104,000 citations with corresponding content files that represent 22 collections (including the title records for BHL books and journals as well as the articles created by BHL users)

What else does a data analyst do?

In addition to my Citebank work, I advise on user interface changes for the BHL portal (e.g. I helped determine how data should be displayed in the brief, full and MODS displays); develop rights metadata, and conduct usability tests.

More recently I was involved in writing part of the NEH grant called the “Art of Life”. My background in the arts and humanities was helpful in explaining how audiences from those fields would benefit from BHL’s wealth of illustrations. I was thrilled to hear our NEH grant was accepted and we will begin working on it later this summer.

Collaboration: BHL’s key to success

One aspect that continues to amaze me about this project is the collaborative and productive outcomes from a virtual team of staff that work in many different parts of the world and communicate across multiple time zones. Somehow it all seems to come together despite the fact that we only see each other face to face a few times a year.

On a weekly basis, I get to work with very smart colleagues at the Smithsonian Libraries, particularly with Bianca Crowley who as BHL collections manager helps determine what content is appropriate for Citebank while I help determine the best way to get the content into Citebank. I also get to collaborate with many of the other BHL staff by participating in the BHL Collections committee, presenting on BHL at conferences, and writing papers about BHL.

Our Users: My Inspiration

Attending last fall’s Life & Literature conference in Chicago was eye opening for me in terms of better understanding our users, their needs, the role that BHL has and can play in their work, as well as the types of audiences that could benefit from our content. The infection of our users is contagious and one of the most inspiring things for me is to read the feedback from our users who say their work would not be possible, or at least much more difficult, without the existence of BHL.

I have master’s degrees in both art history and library science from Indiana University. I never imagined I’d be working at a botanical garden or on a biodiversity project but my openness to go wherever the digital library winds want to take me has landed me in a pretty sweet spot and for that I am most grateful.

- Trish Rose-Sandler, Data Analyst, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Celebrating the Wondrous Creatures of a Bygone Era in BHL

Roaming through the woods and hills of Eastern Europe 500-600 years ago, you would have encountered a deluge of enchanting creatures capable of captivating the mind and heart. Sadly, today many of these wondrous creatures are extinct, including Equus Einhorn and Draconis Nobilis. Though you may no longer chance upon them in the midst of a serene moonlight stroll, these species will live on forever in BHL. Through the bewitching description of E. einhorn, penned by Marco Polo, and the amalgamation of the collective knowledge on D. Nobilis (as of the mid-1600s), preserved for the benefit of posterity by James Rawlins, Duke of Chesham, in his 1689 work Unique Creatures of Eastern Europe, you can once again experience the wonder of the natural world in ways unknown to humankind since the Middle Ages. We celebrate this literary treasure by highlighting the aforementioned species’ excerpts from Rawlins' work in this post, and we encourage you to explore the entire work in BHL to learn more about the amazing creatures now lost to earth but not to memory.

Equus Einhorn

Draconis Nobilis

* Special thanks to Joel Richard for providing literary expertise regarding Unique Creatures of Eastern Europe.