For the first time, the Biodiversity Heritage Library held its annual meeting in conjunction with a major biodiversity/natural sciences organization. In June 2022, BHL joined with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Natural Sciences Collections Society (NatSCA) to host our meetings in Edinburgh, Scotland. Recognizing that the global pandemic had forced so many meetings to turn to virtual, we were fortunate to have this 2022 meeting as a hybrid virtual/in-person event.
As part of the joint meeting, BHL organized two symposia that took the place of the usual “BHL Day” events. The first, organized by myself and BHL Chair Constance Rinaldo, “Liberating Natural History Collections Data in Biodiversity Literature” brought together colleagues from across the biodiversity spectrum to show the importance of BHL in the larger sphere of biodiversity. Speakers at the symposium were:
- Donat Agosti: Nothing in (taxonomic) publishing makes sense except in the light of treatments
- Laurence Benichou: All the cool stuff a taxonomic journal can (should?) showcase through semantic enhancement
- Lyubomir Penev: Collection and specimen data life cycle completed: The case of Pensoft’s journals and OpenBiodiv Knowledge Graph
- Gildas Illien: A new romance between taxonomic literature and specimen data? News from Paris
- Andrea Toomer: Using specimen citations to show the impact of natural history collections: metrics, machine learning, and manual annotation
- Nicky Nicolson: Presenting botanical type citation data from the International Plant Names Index as material citations
The second BHL symposium, organized by BHL Vice-Chair David Iggulden and Secretary Kelli Trei, “Reflections on the Biodiversity Heritage Library: Value in Collections and Collaboration”, focused on presentations by BHL staff and discussed projects and programs within BHL. Speakers at the symposium were:
- Diane Rielinger & Joseph deVeer, Harvard University: The Biodiversity Heritage Library as a platform for connecting natural history materials
- Elisa Herrmann, Museum für Naturkunde: Better publications for better research
- Nicole Kearney, BHL Australia: Project #RetroPIDs: BHL’s mission to unlock the world’s biodiversity literature
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, 27 representatives and staff from BHL partner institutions joined the business and partner sessions of the meeting.
Martin R. Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division at Smithsonian Libraries and Archives) opened the meeting with a report covering BHL’s 2021 program activities and anticipated projects in 2022-23 (Program Director’s Report: The Biodiversity Heritage Library).
BHL Program Manager Colleen Funkhouser attended her first in-person BHL Annual Meeting and provided an overview of BHL operations for the past year. Her Program Manager’s report, (2021: Another Year of Change), provided insight into the BHL’s finances and changes to our outreach activities. Bianca Crowley (BHL Digital Collections Manager) provided a BHL Collection Management update (BHL Collection Management: Knowledge as Water). In her first meeting as a member of the Secretariat, JJ Dearborn (BHL Data Manager) presented a vision for the expansion of BHL as a biodiversity data source (Mobilizing BHL’s Data For Our Planet).
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 (Technical Priorities: 2021/2022 Review) and presented the goals of the 2022 BHL Technical Priorities as determined by the BHL Executive Committee. 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).
Following the Secretariat Reports, Constance Rinaldo (Chair of the Executive Committee of the BHL Members’ Council and former Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University) set the stage for our upcoming discussions with her presentation on the state of the BHL in 2022 (Looking Forward, Looking Back).
BHL Executive Committee Election
This year was an election year for the BHL Executive Committee. David Iggulden (Library, Art & Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) was elected as Chair. Kelli Trei (Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) was elected as Vice-Chair. For the first time, BHL elected Co-Secretaries, Elisa Herrmann (Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Museum für Naturkunde) and Kevin Merriman (Marx Science and Social Science Library, Yale University Library). You can learn more about the Executive Committee members of the BHL Members’ Council for the 2022-2024 term on the BHL About site.
BHL Business Sessions
Working across time zones in a hybrid environment was a challenge. We were not able to get the full participation we normally see at a BHL Annual meeting, however, over the course of two days, BHL partners discussed a number of issues. The major topics were:
Revisions to Collection Development Policy (Led by Bianca Crowley)
Over the past year, BHL’s Collections Committee has been reviewing and revising BHL’s Collection Development Policy. This work is a significant part of Goal 1 (Relevant Content) of BHL’s Strategic Plan. Bianca shared the Committee’s work in progress, reviewing how the sea change in the cultural and social emphasis on diversity and inclusion, as well as the escalation of the climate and biodiversity crises, has impacted the revision of the policy.
What does Strategic Goal 3 (User Engagement) look like going forward? (Led by David Iggulden and Kelli Trei)
With the departure of BHL’s Outreach and Communication Manager in 2021, many of BHL’s outreach activities were placed on hiatus, including a number of tasks associated with Goal 3 (User Engagement) of BHL’s Strategic Plan. David Iggulden and Kelli Trei led BHL partners in a discussion of how we can reimagine user engagement within the new capacity of BHL partners and staff. Feedback from this discussion will help inform a revision of Goal 3.
Replacement of Pan-BHL Scanning Funds (Led by Colleen Funkhouser)
With workflows, staffing, and digitization priorities impacted by the global pandemic over the past several years, BHL took the opportunity to reassess our partners’ priorities for a pan-BHL funding pool that could support small projects across the consortium. This brainstorming session garnered feedback on potential projects that could facilitate increased ingest of priority content into the BHL collection.
Review of Proposed Bylaws Revisions (Led by Kelli Trei)
Over the past year, the BHL Executive Committee and Secretariat worked on a number of changes to the BHL Bylaws. Many of these were procedural or wording changes. A review of these proposals was conducted via video conference earlier in the year and again at the Annual Meeting. A final vote by Members on the proposed changes will occur later in July.
We also had the opportunity to recognize the service to BHL by partner representatives who have retired or moved on to new positions.
While in Edinburgh, there were a few opportunities for additional side meetings.
Persistent Identifiers Working Group. I joined Nicole Kearney, Connie Rinaldo, and Colleen Funkhouser in a meeting with Rod Page to discuss some of the work of the Persistent Identifiers Working Group (#RetroPIDS) for some interesting discussions about the next steps for the group.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. David Iggulden and I also had the opportunity to meet with Lorna Mitchell, librarian at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for a good discussion about library services and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Lorna also gave us a wonderful tour of the library places and the rare book collection.
Natural History Museum. Returning to London, David Iggulden and I were able to meet with Lisa Cardy, Acting Head of Library and Archives at the Natural History Museum (NHM). It was a great opportunity to catch up with Lisa and learn more about the current activities of the library and archives at NHM. While at the museum, David and I took the chance to see the recently returned Dippy the Diplodocus who long greeted us at BHL meetings at the museum.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Also during my London stay, I was able to again meet with David Iggulden at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBGK). In addition to David, Fiona Ainsworth (Head of Library & Archives) and Elizabeth Gardner (Deputy Director of Science, Operations) had a wide-ranging discussion about BHL, past, present, and future.
Thanks and the 2023 BHL Annual Meeting
While many BHL partners were able to travel to the 2022 BHL Annual Meeting, conducting a hybrid meeting was important in this transition period. Thank you to all participants, in-person and virtual for their time in making this a successful meeting. Many thanks also to the organizing committee at SPNHC: Robert Cubey, Suzanne Cubey, Nick Fraser, Elspeth Haston, Sankurie Pie, Chanté St Clair Inglis, and Anna Starkey. I also want to thank the BHL Executive Committee and Secretariat staff for their support in making the meeting work.
Looking forward to the 2023 BHL Annual Meeting, we are happy to announce that it is planned to take place in Paris, France, and will be hosted by the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN).
Thanks again to all who participated in our public and business meetings. We look forward to next year’s meeting.
Business Meeting Reports:
- Chair’s Report (Constance Rinaldo)
- Program Director’s Report (Martin Kalfatovic)
- Program Manager’s Report (Colleen Funkhouser)
- Digital Collections Manager’s Report (Bianca Crowley)
- Data Manager’s Report (JJ Dearborn)
- Technical Coordinator’s Report (Joel Richard)
- Tour of the Room
- Recognition of Partner Representatives