BHL and Our Users: Dr. Charlotte Sleigh

View Full Size ImageContinuing with our new series on our users and their interaction with BHL, this week we feature Dr. Charlotte Sleigh, Senior Lecturer in History of Science, University of Kent (UK), which we present in a typical question and answer interview style. So without further ado, meet Dr. Sleigh, and read what she has to say about how BHL has impacted her work, and what she would like to see from BHL in the future.

Q: What is your particular area of interest/study?

A: Historian of science with a special interest in natural history.

Q: How long have you been in your field of study?

A: 12 years

Q: When did you first discover BHL?

A: About a year ago.

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

A: BHL makes many old, rare or hard-to-access science and natural history texts available at the click of a mouse. In the past, if I was not sure whether or not a book was relevant to my research, I would have to make a trip to London or other major archive, and seek it out, perhaps spending a whole day only to find it was not relevant. Now I can check quickly and easily online, flicking through texts. Nine times out of ten I can get what I want from relevant texts by reading online; sometimes I supplement this by looking at another copy or edition in the flesh. Even in this latter case, however, reading online first (and re-checking afterwards) is an integral part of the research. My research has been enhanced in that I am quickly able to cross-reference the work of many scientists and naturalists against one another.

Q: How often do you use BHL?

A: It depends on whether I am in a research-intensive phase; if so, maybe average 2-4 texts per week.

Q: How do you usually use BHL (downloading whole PDFs/reading online/selecting pages to download/etc.)?

A: Read online. I also go to the text-only version at to search the text for key words, then go back to read the relevant pages at BHL online.

Q: What are your favorite features/services on BHL?

A: As above, the ability to search for key words, though this is a bit of a clunky, multi-stage process.

Q: 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?


  • Easier access to text-only version.
  • My browser (Explorer) sometimes struggles with magnification and gets stuck on a super-enlarged corner of the page.
  • Search facility can be a bit hit and miss.
  • Otherwise – I would just like to see more titles continuing to be added!

Thank you, Dr. Sleigh, for taking the time to tell us about your experience with BHL. At BHL, we particularly appreciate honest feedback about how we can best focus our resources for further development. The best way to determine this is, of course, to ask those who use our services. So, if you have suggestions on how to improve BHL, or if you would like to be featured in our BHL User series on this blog, let us know via our feedback form, send a tweet to @BioDivLibrary, or post on our Facebook wall. We look forward to hearing from our user community, and also to future opportunities to feature our users.

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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.