Announcing Full Text Search on BHL!

New enhancement for BHL’s full text search implementation added August 2018: You can now choose to search the catalog only (i.e. bibliographic metadata like title, author, etc.) or catalog + full text. Information below has been updated to reflect this enhancement.


We’re thrilled to announce that full text search is now available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library!

To start using this functionality, simply visit BHL, type a term into the search box with the “full text” button selected, and use our new interface enhancements to review your results. Search results will display hits for your term in both the bibliographic metadata (i.e. title, author, subject, publisher, related titles and series, etc.) as well as the full text of books in BHL.

If you wish to limit your search to just the bibliographic metadata, select the “catalog” button before performing your search.

For each result, expand “Details” to see where your term occurs within each item, be it in the title, keywords, or full text.

full text search overview in BHL website

Overview of the new full text search functionality on BHL.

Click on a title to view an item from your results list. You can then use the “search inside a book” functionality (discussed below) to navigate to specific pages mentioning your term.

Full text search makes it easier to discover a wider range of relevant content. For example, say you’re looking for information related to invasive zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) populations in the Ohio River. A search for “zebra mussel” AND “Ohio River” yields several intriguing results that may not have been easily discoverable without full text search.

digital library website results for a search for "zebra mussel" and "ohio river"

Results of a search for “zebra mussel” AND “ohio river” yields several intriguing results in the full text. Note: Image edited to highlight specific results of interest.

Faceted Browsing

We’ve also enhanced the BHL interface with faceted browsing, making it easier for you to explore your search results by applying filters for content type, publication date, subject, language, and author. To narrow your results by one of the filters, simply check the box next to the desired facet value(s).

digital library interface showing faceted searching options

Use facets to narrow your search results.

Search results will automatically update when you select a value, but for best results, select one value at a time, allowing the results set to update, before selecting an additional facet value if you wish to further limit your results.

Search Inside a Book

We have also added “search inside a book” functionality, allowing you to search for terms within a book you’re viewing.

To use this feature, navigate to the top right corner of the book viewer, select the “Search Inside” tab and enter your search terms. In that same panel, results will display the pages where your search terms are found, along with snippets of the surrounding text. Navigate to any of those pages by clicking on the hyperlinked page number.

digital library interface showing "search inside" functionality

“Search inside a book” on BHL.

“Search inside a book” is a powerful way to uncover content of interest within a specific book. For example, say you want to find the passages where Darwin discusses his time at the Galápagos Islands within his Journal of Researches from the H.M.S Beagle voyage. By searching for “Galapagos”, you can easily find and navigate to the relevant pages.

digital library display of a book

A search for “Galapagos” within Darwin’s Journal of Researches using the “search inside a book” functionality.

Learn More

We’re excited to introduce this much-anticipated new functionality to BHL, and we look forward to seeing what further discoveries it enables.

Have questions about full text search or want to learn more about our features and functionality? See our General Search and Full Text Search FAQs. If you have further questions or suggestions for future enhancements, you can contact us via our webform or

Avatar for Grace Costantino
Written by

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.