2020 BHL Annual Meeting — Global and Virtual

video conference screen showing a collage of people's faces and a welcome slide

The 2020 BHL Annual Meeting went virtual this year. In addition to pre-recorded presentations from the Executive Committee and Secretariat, three video calls with partners were hosted in mid- to late-May. A total of 38 participants joined at least one of the three calls, with 22 joining the third and final call on 27 May 2020.

Like many organizations around the world, the Biodiversity Heritage Library was compelled to move the 2020 BHL Annual Meeting to a virtual environment. In consultation with our prospective 2020 hosts, the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris, the BHL Executive Committee made the difficult, yet necessary, decision on 11 March 2020 to move to a virtual meeting rescheduled from April to May.

The 2020 BHL Virtual Annual Meeting was conducted over the course of May 2020. The Executive Committee and Secretariat staff provided pre-recorded video presentations which were made available to the BHL partner community in early May. Three video calls were hosted at various time zones in mid- to late-May to allow for the widest participation and the least inconvenience for partners. These three calls brought together 38 participants from 24 institutions and organizations, representing eight countries, and provided an opportunity for interaction and discussion even while separated by (in some cases great) distances. Some participants even came to more than one call!

As BHL Members’ Council Chair Constance Rinaldo noted in her inspiring opening remarks:

“This is BHL’s natural ecosystem, these are our strengths, BHL is virtual, BHL is global, our partners collaborate and are interconnected. BHL is resilient. It makes critical information available thanks to all our partners’ efforts to digitize for open access … Social distancing, collaborating virtually, opening up science. Again, BHL has it covered. In this time, we have the opportunity to leverage BHL’s strengths. The virtualness and interconnectivity we already have allows us to demonstrate our resilience.”

Business Meeting Reports

To accommodate a virtual meeting with a globally dispersed audience, the Executive Committee and Secretariat’s business meeting reports were provided via a series of pre-recorded presentations that participants could watch on their own schedules prior to the business meeting calls.

The series opened with a presentation by Constance Rinaldo (Chair, BHL Members’ Council and Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University) on the state of the BHL as we enter 2020 (2020: The State of the Biodiversity Heritage Library). Martin R. Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division at Smithsonian Libraries) followed with a report covering BHL’s 2019 program activities, a financial update, and anticipated projects in 2020 (2019 Biodiversity Heritage Library – The Year of the Old Normal).

BHL Secretariat staff Bianca Crowley (BHL Collections Manager) and Grace Costantino (BHL Outreach and Communication Manager) provided respectively a BHL Collection Management Update (Collections Management Overview – Stewarding a River of Content) and a BHL Outreach update (Biodiversity Heritage Library Outreach – Highlights from 2019).

Joining the Annual Meeting for the first time, Joel Richard (BHL Technical Coordinator and Head of Web Services & IT at Smithsonian Libraries) provided an overview of the BHL Tech Team’s work and presented the goals of the 2020 BHL Technical Priorities as determined by the BHL Executive Committee in December 2019 (2020 Technical Priorities).

The series also included a message from incoming BHL Program Manager Colleen Funkhouser, who started her position on 30 March 2020, and some final thoughts from the BHL Executive Committee.

Business Meeting Calls

During the three video calls, participants discussed a variety of business topics, including the strategic plan and implementation process, planning for future Member calls, and feedback from partners on BHL’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Partners were also encouraged to submit additional agenda items in response to the pre-recorded presentations or other topics for discussion, which the Executive Committee and Secretariat addressed during each call.

Video conferencing screen showing a grid of people's faces in video screens and a welcome slide

Twenty participants joined the second BHL Virtual Annual Meeting call on 26 May 2020.

Strategic Plan and Plan Implementation

Last year, BHL undertook an ambitious, collaborative process to draft its next five-year strategic plan. Development work on the plan successfully involved Members and Affiliates in this process, which was launched in earnest at the 2019 Annual Meeting. After receiving initial feedback from partners at the meeting, working groups were formed to draft each individual goal and related objectives, which were combined and further refined under the Executive Committee’s leadership to create the 2020-2025 BHL Strategic Plan, which was approved by Member vote in April 2020.

The 2020 business meeting calls provided an opportunity to launch the implementation process for the recently-approved strategic plan. On the three video calls, Jane Smith (Vice-Chair, BHL Members’ Council and Head of Library and Archives at the Natural History Museum, London) led the participants through the outline for implementing the new strategic plan. There will be ongoing engagement as the implementation takes shape.

An on-screen poll in a video conference in front of a video feed of a woman's face

Jane Smith (Vice-Chair, BHL Members’ Council and Head of Library and Archives at the Natural History Museum, London) led the participants through the outline for implementing the 2020-2025 strategic plan during the three Virtual Annual Meeting calls. A poll was used to gauge interest in participating in working groups for the various plan goals.

Member Call Planning

David Iggulden (Secretary, BHL Members’ Council and Head of Data & Digital in the Library, Art & Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) led a discussion on changing the frequency, format, and constituency of the current quarterly BHL Member calls. Meeting participants’ input will be evaluated by the Executive Committee and action taken in July to implement changes.

An on-screen poll for a video conferencing call with a grid of people's faces on video screens behind

David Iggulden (Secretary, BHL Members’ Council and Head of Data & Digital in the Library, Art & Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) led a discussion on implementing changes to the BHL Member calls. Polls were used to gather input from participants on each call.

Tour of the Room, Tour of the World

To engage our partners in the vision and future of BHL, a new component of the annual meeting was planned. Partners were given two questions: “Why is BHL important to your institution?” and “What is one thing you would change about BHL to make your participation in the program more relevant?” Written responses were requested ahead of the meeting, with the original plan to conduct a “tour of the room” during the meeting and have partners present their thoughts.

In our virtual environment, this became a “tour of the world” as participants engaged with Constance Rinaldo’s summary of the remarks. This valuable exercise will provide important feedback and guidance as BHL moves forward.

Screenshot from a video conference call showing a slide with "why BHL is important"

Constance Rinaldo (Chair, BHL Members’ Council and Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University) led the group on a “tour of the room”/ “tour of the world”, sharing partners’ responses to two questions: “Why is BHL important to your institution?” and “What is one thing you would change about BHL to make your participation in the program more relevant?”.

2021 BHL Annual Meeting

While we were not able to travel to Paris this year, the BHL Executive Committee and Secretariat would like to note with much appreciation the excellent planning put in by Gildas Illien (Director of Libraries and Deputy Director of Collections at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris) and his staff, particularly Clément Oury and Chloé Besombes, prior to our move to a virtual environment for 2020. We are also pleased to announce that the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle has kindly offered to host the 2021 BHL Annual Meeting in Paris. More details on that will come later in the year.

Final Thoughts from the BHL Executive Committee

The BHL Executive Committee closed the meeting with some final thoughts. Jane Smith noted that: “BHL at this time more than ever is a key resource for our staff and visitors who support their scholarship, their teaching, and also citizen science as well as general public interest in the natural world.” David Iggulden reminded us that: “BHL has very much shown how we can provide invaluable remote access to our collections at this time and continue to support research even when physical access is not possible … and now really is the time to remind all your colleagues about BHL and all that they can find there so please help us in spreading the word.”

Video conference all screenshot with three people's faces on screen

The BHL Executive Committee (Top Left: David Iggulden (Secretary); Top Right: Jane Smith (Vice-Chair); Bottom: Constance Rinaldo (Chair)) shared some final thoughts at the conclusion of the pre-recorded BHL Business Meeting reports.

Business Meeting Reports: Links to the PPTs

Avatar for Martin R. Kalfatovic

Martin R. Kalfatovic is BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division, Smithsonian Libraries. As the BHL Program Director, Mr. Kalfatovic functions as the executive director and manager of the international consortium of over 80 natural history, botanical garden, government, and university libraries engaged in the mass digitization of taxonomic literature. The position also serves as a key contact for government, NGO, and academic leaders at both the national and international level. Within his role at Smithsonian Libraries, Mr. Kalfatovic is responsible for the Libraries’ active Digital Library program. This program includes the creation of digital editions of library materials, online exhibitions, and new digital publications.