Ten major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions have joined to form the Biodiversity Heritage Library Project. The group is developing a strategy and operational plan to digitize the published literature of biodiversity held in their respective collections. This literature will be available through a global “biodiversity commons.”

The participating libraries have over two million volumes of biodiversity literature collected over 200 years to support the work of scientists, researchers, and students in their home institutions and throughout the world.

The BHL will provide basic, important content for immediate research and for multiple bioinformatics initiatives. For the first time in history, the core of our natural history and herbaria library collections will be available to a truly global audience. Web-based access to these collections will provide a substantial benefit to people living and working in the developing world -- whether scientists or policymakers. The Biodiversity Heritage Library Project strives to establish a major corpus of digitized publications on the Web drawn from the historical biodiversity literature. This material will be available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global Biodiversity Commons.

We will work with the global taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this legacy literature is available to all. The Biodiversity Heritage Library Project must be a multi-institutional project because no single natural history museum or botanical garden library holds the complete corpus of legacy literature, even within the individual sub-domains of taxonomy. However, taken together, the proposed consortium of collections represents a uniquely comprehensive assemblage of literature.

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