BHL in Africa! Workshop & TDWG

An international ensemble of biodiversity-minded professionals recently gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for two weeks of trainings and conferences. From 24-26 September, 2015, fifteen representatives from eleven institutions throughout South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda attended a BHL Africa training workshop at the National Museums of Kenya. Following the workshop, 28 September – 1 October, 2015, the TDWG Annual Conference was held at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club in Nairobi.

The BHL Africa Workshop was an opportunity to provide training and help build capacity amongst the current signatories of the BHL Africa MOU. The workshop was funded as part of the 2015 JRS Biodiversity Foundation grant, awarded to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), to facilitate the growth of BHL Africa.

“This workshop is yet another example of the exciting strides the BHL Africa libraries are making towards digitizing and providing open access to their unique and important collections,” said Robert Guralnick of the Board of Trustees, JRS Biodiversity Foundation.

Representatives from the National Museums of Kenya, the University of Nairobi, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, the African Conservation Centre, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, The Uganda Society, the National Library of Uganda, the South African National Aquatic Biodiversity Institute, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and the University of Pretoria attended the workshop. Training was provided by four BHL representatives from the U.S., including BHL’s Program Director, Martin Kalfatovic, Program Manager, Carolyn Sheffield, Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace Costantino, and Smithsonian Digital Collections Librarian, Jacqueline Chapman.

Trainings included an overview of the structure and governance of BHL; demoes of the BHL website and administrative functions; in-depth discussions about BHL collection scope, development, digitization and curation workflows, and metadata requirements; guidance on copyright and permissions issues; methods for communication and outreach collaboration; and intensive hands-on training for several BHL tools, including the issue tracking system Gemini and the digitization workflow tool Macaw.

Chief among the discussion topics was a focus on building capacity within Africa and amongst current and future participating institutions. The goal of the workshop was to not only train attendees on the many aspects of BHL participation and workflows, but to ensure that attendees could return to their own institutions and provide training to their colleagues. There was also extensive discussion on the various ways that participants could share digitization equipment amongst institutions, ensuring efficiency and a responsible use of funds.

Following the workshop, Martin Kalfatovic, Anne-Lise Fourie (Head of BHL Africa and Assistant Director of SANBI Libraries), Carolyn Sheffield, and Jacqueline Chapman continued on to the TDWG 2015 conference where they were joined by BHL Technical Director William Ulate and the Vice Chair of the Global BHL Executive Committee, Dr. Jiri Frank.  On 1 October, BHL hosted a Symposium that provided updates on the BHL consortium in general; BHL Africa’s JRS-funded capacity-building initiatives; BHL workshops; BHL projects; and a special guest, Prabhakar Rajagopal, who presented on the participation in the India Biodiversity Portal.  The session was well-attended with 137 conference attendees in the audience.

We are excited to see such wonderful progress from our colleagues in Africa, and look forward to the growth of BHL Africa content in and contributions to BHL.

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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.