Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe – Towards a global library of life

Managed by the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, an ambitious and innovative EU project started on 1 May 2009. The ’Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe‘ (BHL-Europe) has a total budget of €3.4 million and will last for three years. More than 60 scientists, librarians and IT specialists attended the Kick-off meeting between 10-15 May 2009 at the Museum für Naturkunde. Altogether, 28 institutions from 14 countries are working towards a global library of life.

An important impediment for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the United Nations is the lack of access to core information on animals and plants. This information is concentrated in the scientific books and journals of the past centuries. At the moment, the only way to access to this knowledge is to visit a number of different libraries. This complicates much of the fundamental research in biological science. Since 2007, the Biodiversity Heritage Library has been systematically removing this impediment by making this literature available over the Web. BHL-Europe will now further develop, expand, and enhance the Biodiversity Heritage Library by bringing together the extensive collections of biodiversity literature held in major European natural history, botanical, and research libraries. As part of the project, a multilingual software interface will be developed enabling users to search in their native language. Innovative search functionality facilitates quick access to all of the information required by the user. In addition to the biodiversity community Portal, all the literature will be accessible through the European Digital Library  - EUROPEANA. The wider public, citizen scientists, and decision makers will have unlimited access to these important sources of information. Everybody will be able to get first-hand information on animals and plants  study rare original works of important scientists like Charles Darwin or Alexander von Humboldt, and admire artwork in publications from the 17th or 18th century. Conservation organisations will have a tool to collect data on rare or threatened species in order to better plan protective actions. Other applications are possible and much more information will be available in the future.