The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.
A Message to Our Community
The world has changed dramatically over the past few months. These changes have profoundly impacted our personal and professional lives and altered the way we do our jobs, access information, share ideas, interact with friends and colleagues, and think about the future. As we face these unprecedented challenges together, we at BHL are committed to ensuring continued, free access to information and resources that empower research, education, creativity and discovery for everyone—no matter where you are.

As we have for the past fourteen years, we continue to work with our global partner community to further develop and strengthen our collections, outreach, services, and partnerships. As we share some of the ways we have been working to improve the Library over the past few months, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank our partners for their unwavering dedication to BHL—which makes all of this possible—and our user community for your support and the many testimonials you’ve shared about BHL’s impact during this time. We are proud to serve you and look forward to continuing to support your research needs...anytime, anywhere.
Martin Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director, in a blue shirt and khaki pants seated on stone steps.
Signature of Martin R. Kalfatovic
Martin R. Kalfatovic
BHL Program Director
On behalf of the BHL Family
Improving Our Collections (Remotely) to Support Your Research (From Anywhere)
With many of our partners now operating in a telework environment, we have focused on projects to improve our digital collections remotely, such as by uploading born digital content, improving collection metadata, and building our image collections on Flickr. Staff have uploaded recent issues of publications like Records of the Australian Museum, Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, and American Museum Novitates and have defined thousands of additional articles and parts in the collection. Staff are also enhancing page-level descriptions for content in BHL. Since March, over 1,700 volumes have been completed with this enhanced page-level metadata. This work includes articulating illustrations within these volumes, many of which are also being uploaded to Flickr. Over 50,000 new images have been uploaded to the BHL Flickr over the past five months—bringing our total Flickr collection to over 200,000 free nature images.

These are just some of the ways we’re working to ensure that BHL continues to empower your research. Explore our free and open access collections today.
View and download 250K+ free eBooks at
Explore 200K+ free nature images at
Explore 50+ thematic collections on a range of subjects.
Empowering Research
Dr. Nick Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, is a long-time BHL advocate. He uses the Library to help inform his research on cetacean evolution.

Dr. Pyenson shares how the digital access offered by BHL allows his research to continue at home.

New and Improved Taxonomic Name Finding Services
We’ve deployed a new taxonomic name finding tool—Global Names Architecture’s (GNA) gnfinder—to improve the speed and accuracy of identifying taxonomic names throughout BHL’s 58+ million pages. With gnfinder, we’ve decreased the time needed for name detection and name verification from 35 days to 5 hours and from 7 days to 12 hours, respectively. The entire BHL corpus can now be indexed in less than a day, compared to the 45 days needed for the previous index. The accuracy of the names identified has also been improved with this deployment.

More than 34 million unique names—representing more than 239 million total instances of taxonomic name strings—have been identified across the BHL collection as of August 2020.

Empowering Education
In March 2020, New York University took its courses online due to COVID-19. This posed challenges for Dr. Elaine Ayers' graduate-level museum studies class, which requires use of primary sources. Learn how BHL helped empower her students' home!

BHL and Earth Optimism 2020
April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Organizations around the world have commemorated the occasion by participating in the global Earth Optimism movement—an initiative spearheaded by the Smithsonian to “turn the conservation conversation from doom and gloom to optimism and opportunity”.

Throughout 2020, BHL and our partners are joining the movement by sharing conservation success stories...past and present. From George Washington Carver, who intertwined agriculture with ecology and encouraged sustainable farming practices, to Anna Botsford Comstock, a leader in the nature education movement, and Richard Evans Schultes, an ethnobotanist who emphasized the importance of respecting and incorporating Indigenous knowledge in conservation activities, to many others, our Earth Optimism series explores important contributors to and milestones in conservation history alongside stories from researchers today who are using BHL to empower conservation work.

2020 BHL Annual Meeting — Global and Virtual
Like many organizations around the world, we were compelled to move the 2020 BHL Annual Meeting—originally to be hosted by the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris—to a virtual environment. The 2020 BHL Virtual Annual Meeting consisted of pre-recorded video presentations from the BHL Secretariat and Executive Committee as well as three video calls 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.

In addition to program updates, a major topic of the Virtual Meeting was developing an implementation plan for the 2020-2025 BHL Strategic Plan, which was approved by Member vote in April 2020.

Empowering Art
'Stinging'. 'Valuable'. 'Colorful'. 'Long-Winded'.

Have you ever had a conversation you would describe this way? Artist Dee Etzwiler created a series of artworks on this theme for a recent group show—each incorporating illustrations from the BHL Flickr.

BHL Records Now Available in WorldCat
We’ve added our bibliographic records to OCLC’s WorldCat® database. You can now find BHL eBooks via With thousands of libraries worldwide participating in OCLC, contributing our records to this “global library cooperative” allows us to extend the discoverability of and access to BHL eBooks.

If you have access to OCLC metadata service products, please look for the OCLC symbol “BHLMR” when reviewing holdings. If you are an OCLC participating library interested in adding BHL records to your own catalog, please feel free!

BHL Australia Turns 10!
In June 2010, the Atlas of Living Australia and Museums Victoria signed an agreement with BHL—and BHL Australia was born! Over the past decade, BHL Australia has added 350K+ pages from 27 organizations across the country.

Happy birthday, BHL Australia!

Empowering Research
Echidnas have black eyes. So why does this specimen in the Manchester Museum have blue eyes? According to author and zoologist Jack Ashby of the Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, the answer likely lies in the original species description by George Shaw from 1792. How does BHL help Ashby uncover this and other fascinating insights about Australian mammals?

Welcome to Colleen Funkhouser, BHL Program Manager
In March 2020, we welcomed Colleen Funkhouser as the new BHL Program Manager! As part of the BHL Secretariat at Smithsonian Libraries, Ms. Funkhouser will help us build strategic partnerships and maintain and grow the infrastructure and services of BHL.

Ms. Funkhouser follows Carolyn Sheffield, who served as BHL Program Manager from 2013 - March 2019, when she took a new position as Associate Director, Library Technology and Digital Strategies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery. We are grateful to Ms. Sheffield for her many years of invaluable service to BHL.

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