Q&A with Patrick Randall

October 13, 2017

In this Q&A, Connie Rinaldo, Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, spoke with Patrick Randall, Community Manager for Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL).

Who he is:

Patrick RandallPatrick Randall, Community Manager for Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL)

Q: How would you describe your work in a nutshell?

Patrick: I reach out to natural history organizations across the US — libraries, museums, zoos, and small societies — and assist them in digitizing their collections for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). I also get permission for their in-copyright publications and do social media outreach for the grant.

Q: What’s one project you’re working on right now?

Patrick: I’m working with Tulane University to get the digitized field notes of Royal D. Suttkus added to the BHL collection. Suttkus was a leading ichthyologist and beloved professor at Tulane. He amassed a huge specimen collection there, and his field notes are being reconstructed after damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Q: What is an accomplishment that you’re most proud of?

Patrick: I’ve secured permission for over 200 in-copyright titles on behalf of BHL. This is over a quarter of the in-copyright material added to BHL since it began 11 years ago.

Q: What is one big challenge the project is facing?

Patrick: Sustainability is the project’s biggest challenge. We are working to ensure that the relationships we’ve cultivated with so many organizations continue after the grant ends. This means carefully documenting everything for our colleagues here at Harvard and at our partner institutions across the BHL consortium.

Q: How do you feel your team/project impacts the Harvard Library community?

Patrick: As a founding member of BHL, the Ernst Mayr Library has been at the forefront of open access for a long time. My colleagues here regularly share their insights on digital exhibits, transcription tools, and other rapidly changing areas of the field. This project, especially, has resulted in some workflows that can be adapted to all kinds of collaboration with other institutions. We’ve also been able to digitize some of Harvard’s own scholarship, including publications by OEB faculty and the Arnold Arboretum.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the project?

Patrick: What surprised me is how many organizations are willing to give permission for their journals to be distributed in an open-access digital library, even when those journals are a source of revenue. These organizations, particularly small natural history societies, are extremely generous in sharing their research with the larger scientific community.