The Biodiversity Heritage Library thrives on international partnerships and collaborative projects. In the fall of 2021, representatives from BHL participated in a number of planning meetings and conferences in support of global biodiversity projects. Meetings included the BiCIKL hackathon, GBIF Governing Board Meeting, and TDWG 2021 virtual conference.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library has released an Acknowledgment of Harmful Content to recognize deep prejudices within some of the pages of its collection. As a digital library of natural science publications and archival materials, BHL is a free and open access online resource that primarily reflects the print collections of its contributors. Some of the content in BHL is harmful because it reflects ableist, classist, colonialist, eurocentrist, racist, sexist, xenophobic, and other biased views, especially in descriptions of peoples, lands, and species. The long and, at times, painful history of the scientific record has privileged hegemonic perspectives with the right to print while stifling the voices of the powerless.
BHL joins recent global outcries against racial and environmental injustice. We are assessing our role as a digital library and the responsibility we have to question our neutrality and address harm without reducing access. We are deeply concerned about the continuing crisis of global species loss and the inequitable divisions within our own species. Reflecting on ourselves, we see an organization grappling with inclusion and the acute consequences that these harmful views have on the world and its people today.
In October 2020, BHL launched a new working group with a momentous goal: to make the content on BHL persistently discoverable, citable and trackable using DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers).
A DOI is like an electronic fingerprint in the form of a unique and permanent alphanumeric string that provides a persistent link to a piece of content online. Modern publications receive a DOI at the point of publication. A DOI is a key part of a publication’s bibliographic metadata and should be included in any mention or citation of that publication. Reference lists in modern publications are filled with DOIs, which allows readers to click from publication to publication in (in theory) a never-ending chain of knowledge.
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.
On 30 April 2021, join the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library and the Caxton Club for a free, virtual symposium celebrating the Language of Flowers—a popular literary trend in the 19th century that presented the world of botany through dictionaries of flowers and associated meanings, floral poetry and prose, offering a sentimental view of natural history.
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The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. Headquartered at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives in Washington, D.C., BHL operates as a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to digitize the natural history literature held in their collections and make it freely available for open access as part of a global “biodiversity community.”
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