A rich stream of historical life sciences literature from Mann Library’s renowned collections will soon be online, free and available to the public, as part of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Mann is spearheading the new partnership between the BHL and Cornell University Library, which opens a new chapter in scholarly access to important treasures in the literature of the biological sciences. The BHL — www.biodiversitylibrary.org — is a nonprofit consortium of museums and libraries that cooperate to create a digital “biodiversity commons” of historic scientific literature.
As a cooperative consortium, the Biodiversity Heritage Library aims to unlock historical literature in the biological sciences that would otherwise be highly fragmented or possible to view at only a limited number of physical libraries. BHL strives to ensure the global accessibility of this literature, operating on the principles of open access and responsible use. It works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders and other interested parties and collaborators such as the Internet Archive. Participating institutions — all of whom contribute content to BHL’s online library — hail from the U.S., Europe, Australia and China and include the Smithsonian Libraries, the American Museum of Natural History, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Chinese National Committee for Diversitas, among others. Cornell is the second academic institution to become a member of BHL, joining Harvard Libraries as a contributing consortium partner.
“Our partnership with BHL will significantly increase the visibility and accessibility of Mann’s collections for a global community of researchers,” said Mann Library Director Mary Ochs ’79. “I’m really pleased that this partnership will in turn help connect Cornell scholars with the amazing body of biodiversity-related literature available at all the remarkable institutions that make up the BHL consortium.”
Cornell University Library’s entry as BHL partner has already achieved an important milestone: When more than 4,000 digitized life sciences titles from Mann Library’s collection joined BHL in early January, the additions put the online repository over the 100,000 mark in the number of digitized volumes in its online collection.
The next focus of Mann’s participation will be the digitization of Cornell’s entomology collection, which is one of the largest and finest in the world. Mann has already digitized more than 190 titles from the Library’s special collections of rare entomology works — including beautifully illustrated gems such as Dru Drury’s 18th-century “Illustrations of Natural History” and Jacob Hübner’s late 19th-century “Geschichte Europäischer Schmetterlinge” — which will soon be added to the BHL site and will fill out a major area in BHL’s wide-ranging coverage universe of biodiversity literature.