The Ernst Mayr Library is a founding member of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The BHL is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL).
In 2005 at the Natural History Museum in London, a group of biologists, librarians, and computer scientists met and demonstrated that the lack of access to the published literature of biodiversity was one of the principal obstacles to efficient and productive research. It was shocking to the librarians that libraries were viewed as barriers to access! By 2007, the directors of the libraries of the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard University Botany Libraries, Harvard University Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Missouri Botanical Garden, Natural History Museum in London, New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Marine Biological Laboratory/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries agreed to a Memorandum of Agreement that established the BHL. In the years since, other great libraries have joined-- from the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences (2009), California Academy of Sciences (2009), Mann Library of Cornell University (2011), the United States Geological Survey (2011).
In 2009-2010, BHL went global expanding partnerships to and sharing content with BHL Europe, Europeana, BHL China, BHL SciELO, and BHL Australia. The global BHL is also working with librarians and educators in Africa, including the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. BHL has become invaluable to many taxonomists and other biodiversity researchers since its inception. Comments like these are frequently posted:
Just a quick thank you for an outstanding service. It's a godsend.
With the advent of the BHL Flickr pages and ITunes U presence, the visibility of this resource has expanded. BHL data is also the first data to populate the Digital Public Library of America, as a sort of "science reading room"!
For some detailed history, check out: Rinaldo and Warnement, Rinaldo and Norton and Gwinn and Rinaldo. Read the BHL blog to see what's new. Meanwhile we continue to add content to the BHL, including current content when rightsholders agree.