My Life as a BHL Staffer: Gilbert Borrego

View Full Size ImageTo kick off the new year, we here at BHL are starting a new monthly series titled “My Life as a BHL Staffer.” Each month, we will showcase a different BHL staff member and give an overview of what tasks and duties that person performs. We kick off the series with me, Gilbert Borrego, BHL staff member from the Smithsonian Institution. While I have a lot of different duties to perform for BHL, I can group them into three main areas: Social Media (which includes Flickr and Facebook), the pagination of BHL materials, and lastly, the pulling and returning of the physical items that will be scanned and eventually show up on BHL. I’ll start with the fan favorite:

BHL Flickr:

The goal of having a BHL Flickr page ( is to have a means to showcase BHL content in a new and fun way. We want to supply a pool of image content for dissemination through multiple social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and for other potential BHL projects. We also use it to provide BHL content to the Encyclopedia of Life ( as part of their practice to automatically pull images from Flickr to include on EOL taxon pages. Lastly, we want to use it a way to connect with you, the BHL and Flickr communities!

We started making a real concerted effort to populate and utilize Flickr in July 2011 and it just took off! I usually choose the items that I want to post on Flickr based on what items come across my desk, looking at items on the BHL recent addition feed (, or doing keyword searches on BHL ( I look for the most visually stunning, interesting or intricate plates that I can find. I download all the images from an item, one image at a time.

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Believe me, the two monitor set up is necessary!

I then upload them into Adobe Bridge which enables me to attach the all important metadata to all of the images. The metadata includes the filename, the creator, the source, descriptive information, keywords, credits, and copyright information. After that, I upload the whole batch to the BHL Flickr page and assign it to various categories including the contributing institution, the classification of the animals or plants pictured, and whether the item was used as a Book of the Week for this blog.

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Beautiful, huh? 🙂

We also provide BHL content to the Encyclopedia of Life ( Images from our Flickr page are added to EOL when tagged with the proper machine tags with scientific names. You can learn more about machine tags here:
And guess what? YOU can add machine tags to our images too! In fact, we would love for some assistance in getting even more of our images into EOL! Learn how to do it with this snazzy tutorial:

We currently have over 22,000 images on Flickr and will continue to keep adding more and more! If you know of any items in BHL with images that are screaming to be added to Flickr, please let us know via FlickrMail or leave us some feedback (

I also post everyday on Facebook: We typically provide news and information that would be of potential interest to our Facebook followers. We try to change up the look of our page when we can, which means changing the profile picture often. Most importantly, we try to engage our users by being as interactive as we can. We love replying to comments and questions, so please be active and participate on our quizzes and make plenty of comments about anything we post!

Pulling and Returning Items:

SIL’s scanning process begins with the selection of material to scan. Material is selected for scanning based on three key areas: content identified by the systematic scanning of a biodiversity discipline topic (i.e. Entomology, Ornithology, Botany, etc.), institutional publications, and content identified through BHL’s issue tracking system, called Gemini, which includes user-submitted feedback. You can submit a scan request (or any other type of question or feedback here:

Staff members work to resolve this feedback by assigning them to various BHL institutions to address. We also have a system in place that helps to help make sure different institutions do not scan the same items. Once items have been selected for scanning, I will retrieve the items from the appropriate library branch which are located throughout the Smithsonian Natural History Museum building.

Once the items have been scanned and the books are sent back to us, I review the quality of the scans by performing a statistical sampling of books from the shipment or scanning batch. The process of quality assessment can be time consuming as it involves clicking through the scanned page images while turning the physical pages of the book at the same time. However, it is very important that we provide high quality scans that are not missing pages or that have pages that are cut off. After the assessment, the items are checked back in and reshelved.

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Yikes, that is a lot of books!


Pagination is the process of dividing our content into discrete pages in order to more easily find the information researchers need to help them do their work in a timely manner without having to search for information page by page. Basically, pagination includes indicating things such as page numbers, volume and issue numbers, tables of content, indices, identifying plates and figures and anything else to make searching through online items easy and quick. My position requires me to do quite a bit of pagination as it is an important component to using BHL for research. In the end, I want to make something that looks like this…
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…to look a little more like this.

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My pagination work screen looks like this:
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I can manipulate multiple items at one time by checking the appropriate boxes, (for example, finding and checkmarking all the plates and have them numbering sequentially). If this looks like it takes a long time, it does! I have to look at every single page to verify what it is and give it the correct information. An item may take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, and certain series may take WEEKS, so be patient with us! 🙂

Seriously, we are looking at various ways to make the pagination process more automated, but for now, we have to manually manipulate each page. We prioritize pagination based on requests from users and we try to finish them up as soon as we can. So, if you know of an item in BHL that you would like paginated, please let us know ( We will be happy to do it, just give us a little time to get it done.

Well, that is a very brief and simplified description of what I do for BHL. Hopefully it was both interesting and informative! You would not believe how hardworking and committed every BHL staffer is and how committed everybody is to this ambitious project and I am still amazed that I get to play a role in it! Be sure to look out for our next BHL member profile next month and learn more about us!

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Gilbert Borrego served as a Library Technician at Smithsonian Libraries for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014-2013.