Biodiversity Heritage Library
Smithsonian Institution Libraries

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Sustainable growth through collaborative partnerships

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), created in 2006, is the result of a collaboration of ten natural history museum and botanical garden libraries seeking to digitize core taxonomic literature and to make it free and openly available throughout the world. Today, the BHL includes fifteen member institutions whose efforts have shaped a collection of over 60,000 titles. It has developed beyond project status to become a service that researchers in systematic biology have integrated into their daily work. Supported through a combination of membership dues, in-kind support from member institutions, contributions from the user community, and direct support from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, it reaches tens of thousands of users each year. While managing the complex partnership has not been easy, BHL offers an instructive model for multi-institutional, international collaboration.

This case study is one of eight conducted as part of an IMLS-funded project in collaboration with the Association of Research Libraries. The final report, Searching for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Special Collections, offers findings drawn from all eight cases, highlighting the ways in which libraries and cultural heritage organizations have undertaken to move their special collections into the 21st century through digitization and ongoing investments to ensure the collections remain valuable to users over time.