Monday, March 4, 2013

Coming Soon! A New and Improved Biodiversity Heritage Library

Sneak Peek! The soon-to-be-released BHL homepage!

The BHL team has been hard at work for the past year developing a new user interface (which will become live on March 18, 2013!) based on usability studies and the design and functionality of the BHL-Australia portal. BHL-Australia staff* partnered with BHL-US/UK staff to merge the user-praised aesthetics and book viewer of the Au portal with the functionality of the US/UK portal.

Besides a whole new look and feel, users will be able to navigate more easily within books, with the ability to view multiple columns of pages on screen at once, scroll quickly to a specific page within the book, and view the book's OCR text alongside page images.

The new book viewer, which will include options to view multiple columns of pages on the screen at once and view OCR text alongside page images!

Users will also be able to select pages for their custom PDFs while in the book-viewer mode, allowing for easier PDF construction. They will also have the ability to review all pages in their PDF before generating it. And don't worry! You'll still be able to download the entire PDF and redirect easily to Internet Archive for more download options.

The new PDF generation process, which will allow you to select pages for your PDF while in book-viewer mode and review your PDF before generation.

Download options in the new book viewer.

Perhaps the most exciting enhancement, however, will be the ability to search for articles, chapters, and other book segments within BHL. Using algorithms developed by Rod Page of BioStor, a selection of BHL content has been broken down to individual articles and parts, which will be indexed and searchable on BHL. Furthermore, a new tab in the advanced search screen will make it even easier to search for specific articles. And, when you're viewing a book that has been broken down into its articles/chapters, a new Table of Contents feature will allow you to see all of those parts and redirect to each one with a single click. And of course, BHL's APIs, OpenURL interface, and Data Exports will be modified to include available article and chapter information.

The new advanced search, which includes the option to search specifically for articles, chapters, and other book segments.

At the time of release, we expect to have over 81,000 articles, chapters, and other segments available in BHL. Additional articles and chapters will become available as the collections continue to be indexed.

We've also been working to improve our name-finding algorithms. Shortly after the release of the new interface, we'll be implementing a new algorithm which will be able to identify more scientific names throughout the BHL corpus than ever before. That means, when you search for a species name in BHL, you'll get more results, thus receiving a more accurate reflection of the species' publication history.Test applications of this algorithm on a portion of the BHL corpus have already resulted in an increase in nearly 50 million name instances in BHL, translating to over 20 million new unique names identified. These newly-identified names are currently available in BHL.

When can you expect all of these wonderful improvements? The new user interface will launch on March 18, 2013! To get a sneak peek at the new interface and its functionality, check out "A Guide to the New BHL."  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, and be sure to check back on our blog and BHL for the official announcement of the new BHL! 

* Thanks to the following BHL-Australia staff who contributed to the original BHL-Australia Design and the BHL-Au and BHL-US/UK merge: First, to those who designed and developed the original BHL-Australia portal on which our new website is based, we thank Simon O'Shea (Designer) and Michael Mason (Developer). Secondly, to the BHL-Australia staff that worked with the US staff to merge the two UIs, we thank Simon Sherrin and Ajay Ranipeta (Developers) and Simone Downey (Designer - design based on original design by Simon O'Shea). And finally, a special thanks to Ely Wallis, BHL-Australia Director and Chair of the Global BHL Executive Committee, who has selflessly supported the dedication of her staff's time to this process.


  1. I'm confused. Why are some pages in a book totally black but I can see others? Do you have to join to see all the pages?? Are these books all to view for free online or what? Thank you for explaining.

  2. Biodiversity Heritage LibraryMarch 5, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Dear Anonymous,

    All books in BHL are all free to view and download online. You should be able to see all pages in any book without issue. You do not need to sign up for anything to view any of our pages.

    It's possible that there were some server issues when you tried to access a certain page in BHL, or there may be a problem with a particular file. If you let us know which books you're having trouble with, we can look into it.

    Some files on BHL are also very large, and if you do not have a strong Internet connection, or if you are using a shared connection, like at an institution, where there are a lot of other demands on the connection, page loading may timeout. If this is the issue, we suggest you try viewing the items on a different computer or during less heavy Internet traffic times at your institution.

    We are eager to help you resolve any issues you have with viewing items in our collection. You can either respond to this comment or send us an email with detailed information to

    The new BHL interface, which was detailed in this blog post, will be available on March 18, 2013!


    The BHL Team

  3. The only book I've looked at so far has some black pages--well parts of a few pages are black--not the entire page. Seemed odd. Anyway, the book is called Cyclopedia of American Horticulture.

    Thank you for your wonderful assistance. Your library is terrific!!

  4. Biodiversity Heritage LibraryMarch 5, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    We're so glad you like our library! The issue you describe was definitely a server issue. I took a quick look at the volumes available for this title and didn't see any issues at present: If you do still notice an issue though, please don't hesitate to respond to this comment or send us feedback to Please include the URL to the specific item that is problematic, as these server issues are item-based, not system-wide. Thanks again for your praise for our project, and we hope you continue to find the resources you need!