2019 BHL Annual Meeting at Cornell University

Group of men and women standing in front of doors at a stone building.

BHL representatives at the 2019 BHL Annual Meeting, hosted by the Albert R. Mann Library of Cornell University. Photo by: Jenny Leijonhufvud.

The 2019 BHL Annual Meeting was held 29 April – 3 May in Ithaca, New York. Hosted by the Albert R. Mann Library of Cornell University, the Meeting brought together 34 participants from 23 institutions, representing 9 countries.

As BHL Program Director Martin Kalfatovic noted: “The BHL Annual meeting is an opportunity for the partners, from all over the world, to come together to chart the course of the BHL for the coming year. The conversations, both formal and informal, are key to keeping the Library relevant to both its global user community and the partners that sustain the BHL.”

The meeting agenda included reports on the state of the consortium, facilitated discussions around key program areas, a strategic planning session, a panel session with BHL partner representatives, a public event with a panel of Cornell scientists, and many amazing tours and excursions.

Man in suit standing in front of a slide that reads "Welcome! 2019 BHL Annual Meeting, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY"

Gerald Beasley (University Librarian, Cornell University) welcoming attendees to the 2019 BHL Annual Meeting at the Albert R. Mann Library. Photo by: Nicole Kearney.

The business portion of the meeting opened with a presentation by Constance Rinaldo (Chair, BHL Members’ Council) on a vision for the next generation of BHL (The State of the BHL: Future Thoughts). Martin Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director) followed with a report covering BHL’s 2018 program activities, a financial update, anticipated projects in 2019, and thoughts on future directions and priorities for BHL (BHL: Past>Present>Future). BHL Secretariat staff Bianca Crowley (BHL Collections Manager) and Grace Costantino (BHL Outreach and Communication Manager) wrapped up the business meeting with a BHL Collection Management Update and BHL Outreach Highlights from 2018.

Following the business sessions, a series of facilitated discussions provided partner representatives with opportunities to help inform strategies around key program topics including content development methods, partnerships, and BHL’s relationship with science communities.

BHL has also begun the process of drafting our next strategic plan, effective for 2020-2025. During a strategic planning session at the meeting, partner representatives shared their thoughts on the relevance of the goals in BHL’s current plan, identifying areas in need of changes or further consideration, and working committees to address each goal for the new plan were established.

Group of three women and a man standing in front of a brown wall.

2019-2021 BHL Executive Committee (L to R): Constance Rinaldo (Chair); Jane Smith (Vice-Chair); Nancy Gwinn (Immediate Past Chair); David Iggulden (Secretary). Photo by: Bianca Crowley.

A key item of business at the meeting was the election of the BHL Executive Committee for the 2019-2021 term. The Executive Committee provides strategic leadership and governance decisions for BHL. Officers are elected for two-year terms by the BHL Members’ Council, which is comprised of one representative from each BHL Member institution.

The results of the election include:

  • Constance Rinaldo (Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Chair;
  • Jane Smith (Natural History Museum Library, London), Vice-Chair;
  • David Iggulden (Library, Art & Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), Secretary.

Nancy Gwinn (Smithsonian Libraries) also serves on the committee as the Immediate Past Chair.

In addition to the business portions of the meeting, the program also included two panel sessions, one with BHL partner representatives and another as part of a public event with Cornell scientists.

Man standing by a slide that reads "One small step for BHL, one giant leap for Mann"

Michael Cook (Cornell University, Albert R. Mann Library) presenting on the BHL Partners Reflection Panel. Photo by: Martin Kalfatovic.

Man standing by a slide that reads "Right on Kew: The Story of BHL at the Royal Botanic Gardens"

David Iggulden (Kew Gardens) presenting on the BHL Partners Reflection Panel. Photo by: Martin Kalfatovic.

A woman standing next to a slide that reads "BHL Australia and the (NEW) BHL New Zealand"

Nicole Kearney (Museums Victoria / BHL Australia) presenting on the BHL Partners Reflection Panel. Photo by: Martin Kalfatovic.

Two women standing next to a slide that reads Lining up for BHL: Digitizing the Library of the MfN Berlin"

Jana Hoffmann and Elisa Herrmann (Museum für Naturkunde (MfN) Berlin) presenting on the BHL Partners Reflection Panel. Photo by: Martin Kalfatovic.

During the BHL Partners Reflection Panel on 1 May, representatives from Cornell University, Kew Gardens, BHL Australia, and MfN Berlin reflected on their experiences as members of the BHL consortium. Follow the links below to view each presentation:

Flyer for the event "Nature Abhors a Paywall"

Top: Speakers at the BHL Public Day Panel Session, L to R: Prof. Kathie Hodge; Dr. Karen Penders St. Clair; Prof. Tom Seeley. Below: Promotional Flyer for the public event. Photos and graphic courtesy of Mann Library.

On the evening of 1 May, Mann Library and BHL presented a special public program entitled Nature Abhors a Paywall: Cornell Life Scientists Reflect on Open Science and the Historical Record. During the event, three Cornell scientists — neurobiologist Tom Seeley, mycologist Kathie Hodge, and science historian Karen Penders St. Clair — highlighted the role that the historical scientific record has played in their own research. The session was followed by a public reception in the Mann Gallery in conjunction with Mann’s newest exhibit: PolliNation: Artists Crossing Borders with Scientists to Explore the Value of Pollinator Health. Follow the links below to view each speaker’s presentation:

A recording of the public event will be made available via Cornell’s system in the future.

Room full of people sitting.

Attendees at the BHL Public Day Panel Session: Nature Abhors a Paywall. Photo by: Grace Costantino.

Attendees at the meeting also had the opportunity to participate in some wonderful tours and social events.

Group of people crossing a bridge.

BHL representatives on the Cascadilla Gorge tour. Photo by: Nicole Kearney.

“Ithaca was an ideal location for the 2019 BHL Annual Meeting,” noted Constance Rinaldo, Chair of the BHL Members’ Council. “Those attending the meeting were treated to amazing excursions that exposed them to the unique biodiversity of the Finger Lakes region as well as the bibliographic treasures held by the libraries at Cornell University.”

On 29 April, attendees had the option of participating in a trail hike of Cascadilla Gorge or a tour of Mann Library collections related to female botanical illustrations. An informal get-together at the historic Argos Inn provided attendees with a chance to gather and chat with fellow BHL colleagues before the business meetings began the following day.

Group of people standing on a bridge.

Group photo of meeting attendees during the Cascadilla Gorge tour. Photo credit: Martin Kalfatovic.

Throughout the meeting days, the Mann Library staff arranged for a variety of fascinating tours across the campus, including a visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Rare and Manuscript Collections at Kroch Library, and tours of the Bailey Conservatory and Hortorium.

Photo of a manuscript open to a page with a drawing of a plant.

Anne Wollstonecraft’s manuscript, Specimens of the Plants & Fruits of the Island of Cuba, on display during the tour of the Rare Book and Manuscripts Collection at Kroch Library. Photo by: Grace Costantino.

Holding holding a sheet of dried herbarium specimens.

Librarian Peter Fraissinet highlighting collections from the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium during a tour for Annual Meeting attendees. Photo by: Nicole Kearney.

On the Friday following the meetings (3 May), a group of attendees enjoyed an excursion to Taughannock Falls State Park followed by visits to a local cidery and winery, complete with tastings!

Group of people standing in front of a waterfall.

Group photo of meeting attendees at Taughannock Falls State Park during the Friday, 3 May excursion. Photo credit: Martin Kalfatovic.

The meeting culminated with the reveal of the 2020 BHL Annual Meeting host: the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (MNHN) in Paris! Gildas Illien (Director of Libraries and Documentation at MNHN and the MNHN Member representative to BHL) presented an overview of the wonderful facilities and accommodations planned for the meeting and delighted attendees with previews of some of the activities, tours, and events being planned.

Man on left being handed gift of framed tiles by a woman, with another man standing to her left.

Host appreciation ceremony during the closing reception at the 2019 BHL Annual Meeting. Michael Cook (Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University, left) being thanked by Constance Rinaldo (BHL Executive Committee Chair, center) and Martin Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director, right). Photo by: Grace Costantino.

We look forward to gathering again in Paris for the 2020 meeting, and extend our sincere thanks to Cornell staff for hosting and organizing such a fantastic meeting. In particular, thanks to Michael Cook (Head of Collections at the Albert R. Mann Library and the Cornell Member representative to BHL) for leading the planning activities at Cornell, as well as the many other Cornell staff members who provided planning and meeting support, including: Gerald Beasley (University Librarian), Mary Ochs (Director of Mann Library), Deborah Cooper (Digital & Special Collections Librarian), Lianna May (Administrative Coordinator), Betsy Elswit (Collections Specialist), and Sarah Kennedy (Collection Development Librarian).

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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.