Like many organizations around the world, the Biodiversity Heritage Library was compelled, for the second year in a row, to move the 2021 BHL Annual Meeting to a virtual environment. In consultation with our prospective 2021 host, the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris, the BHL Executive Committee again made the difficult, yet necessary, decision to move to a virtual meeting, but one that would be much enhanced from 2020 with a goal of trying to recreate the interaction and programmatic content of our in-person meetings.
BHL Day 2021 and Closing Event
Like many of our previous in-person events, the annual meeting this year included a public, BHL Day 2021. The event, themed Reflections in Crises, featured an opening keynote, “Biodiversity at a Tipping Point”, by Ian Owens (Deputy Director, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution). BHL partners spoke on the topic of Finding Opportunities During a Global Pandemic. The day ended with a closing keynote by Lidia Ponce de la Vega (Doctoral Candidate (ABD) and DH Course Lecturer, McGill University), “Decolonizing Strategies for an Equitable Biodiversity Heritage Library.” Event sessions were moderated by Constance Rinaldo (Chair, Executive Committee of the BHL Members’ Council), Gildas Illien (General Director of Collections at Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (MNHN)), and Bianca Crowley (BHL Digital Collections Manager). BHL Day 2021 was our best attended event to date with 187 attendees. See details about the event here. Recordings of the event sessions are available on the BHL YouTube channel.
A special closing event, Notes from Nature: The Biodiversity Heritage Collections, was organized by our BHL Members, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) and National Library Singapore, in partnership with BHL. See details about the event here. Recordings of the event presentations by Tan Huism (Senior Director, National Library Singapore) and Clément Oury (Head of Conservation, Restauration and Digitization Service, MNHN Library) are available on the National Library Singapore YouTube channel.
BHL Business Meeting
To provide the best virtual experience for a globally dispersed audience, the Executive Committee and Secretariat’s business meeting reports were provided via pre-recorded presentations followed by a live question and answer period. In all, 43 representatives from BHL partner institutions joined the business and partner sessions of the meeting.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Constance Rinaldo (Chair of the Executive Committee of the BHL Members’ Council and former Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University) on the state of the BHL as we enter 2021 (Transitions and Collective Resiliency: BHL 2020-2021). As Constance noted in her opening remarks: “By leveraging BHL strengths, we are maintaining the resilience inherent in BHL’s virtual global presence and interconnectivity … this collective resilience is key to the strength of our community. It is the strength of our BHL community that keeps us nimble and valued.”
Martin R. Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division at Smithsonian Libraries and Archives) followed with a report covering BHL’s 2020 program activities, a financial update, and anticipated projects in 2021-22 (Biheli quīndecim: BHL@15).
Though BHL Program Manager Colleen Funkhouser joined BHL right before the 2020 meeting, this was Colleen’s first full meeting. Her Program Manager’s report, Program Manager’s Report: An Eventful First Year, provided insight into the BHL’s finances and other related activities. Bianca Crowley (BHL Digital Collections Manager) and Grace Costantino (BHL Outreach and Communication Manager) provided respectively a BHL Collection Management update (BHL Collection Management: Diving Deeper into a Sea of Content) and a BHL Outreach update (BHL Outreach: Looking Back at 2020).
Also presenting was Joel Richard (BHL Technical Coordinator and Head of Web Services & IT at Smithsonian Libraries and Archives), who provided an overview of the BHL Tech Team’s work (2021 Technical Priorities) and presented the goals of the 2021 BHL Technical Priorities as determined by the BHL Executive Committee in December 2020. Mike Lichtenberg, BHL’s Developer, also participated in the meeting along with Tech Team members, Susan Lynch (Systems, Digitization & Web Services Librarian, The New York Botanical Garden), Nicole Kearney (Manager, BHL Australia), and Elisa Herrmann (Head of Department Discovery Services and Information Management, Museum für Naturkunde).
BHL Executive Committee Election
This year was an election year for the BHL Executive Committee. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the election was modified to allow Member representatives to vote to continue Constance Rinaldo for one additional year as Chair, as well as electing a Vice-Chair and Secretary. The vote to continue Constance Rinaldo as Chair was approved; David Iggulden (Library, Art & Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) was elected as Vice-Chair and Kelli Trei (Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) was elected as Secretary. You can learn more about the Executive Committee members of the BHL Members’ Council for the 2021-2023 term on the BHL About site.
Tour of the Room: Top Lessons Learned from 2020
To engage our partners in the vision and future of BHL, we again held a tour of the room. Partners were given two questions: “What was your institution’s top lesson learned from 2020 that is most relevant for BHL?” and “How has your thinking about BHL changed in response to the events of the past year?” Written responses were requested ahead of the meeting and a number of participants shared their thoughts live at the meeting. All responses to the Tour of the Room are available to review.
Over the course of 2020, many BHL associated staff worked on finalizing the implementation document for the 2020-2025 BHL Strategic Plan. Leaders from each of the five goals gave brief presentations on their elements of the implementation plan. The partners also had a discussion around Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) in relation to BHL collections and related activities.
Thanks and the 2022 BHL Annual Meeting
While we were not able to travel to Paris this year or the last, the BHL Executive Committee and Secretariat would like to note with much appreciation the excellent planning put in by our colleagues at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN), Gildas Illien (General Director of Collections at Muséum national d’histoire naturelle) and his staff, particularly Clément Oury (Head of Conservation, Restauration and Digitization Service, MNHN Library) and Alice Lemaire (Director of Libraries and Documentation, MNHN), in our planning for the virtual 2021 meeting.
We also had the opportunity to recognize the service to BHL by partner representatives who have retired or moved on to new positions.
Looking forward to 2022, the BHL Annual meeting will be held in conjunction with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). BHL will coordinate with SPNHC for public programs as the meeting’s international partner, alongside the meeting’s national partner, the NatSCA (Natural Sciences Collections Association). Stay tuned for more details on the June 2022 meeting.
Thanks again to all who participated in our public and business meetings. We look forward to our next year’s meeting.
Business Meeting Reports: Links to the PPTs
- Chair’s Report (Constance Rinaldo)
- Program Director’s Report (Martin Kalfatovic)
- Program Manager’s Report (Colleen Funkhouser)
- Digital Collections Manager’s Report (Bianca Crowley)
- Outreach and Communication Manager’s Report (Grace Costantino)
- BHL Technical Coordinator’s Report (Joel Richard)
- Tour of the Room
- Recognition of Partner Representatives