Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Spirit of Radio, SiriusXM recording studio trip

SiriusXMInvisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
 - Rush, "Spirit of Radio" (1980)

Since this does seem to be my year of radio, yesterday I went with a group of collegues to the SiriusXM radio studios in Washington to record some public service spots for Smithsonian Libraries. The studios were quite amazing and the staff were all friendly and helpful.

On Air

Control room monitoring all feeds
Here's my spot:

The Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Smithsonian Libraries is proud to be a founding member and host to the secretariat of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The Biodiversity Heritage Library, or BHL for short, is a consortium of 14 natural history, botanical, government, and university libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the literature of biodiversity as a part of a global "biodiversity commons."

Begun in 2006 after a series of informal discussions between key natural history and botanical garden libraries, the BHL partnership was formalized in 2007 and our coordinated digitization efforts began shortly thereafter. Joining the Smithsonian Libraries in this partnership are the libraries of the:

  • Academy of Natural Sciences Library in Philadelphia;
  • the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; 
  • the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco; 
  • Cornell University;  
  • The Field Museum in Chicago; 
  • the Harvard University Botany Libraries; 
  • the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University;
  • the Marine Biological Laboratory / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, MA
  • Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis; 
  • the Natural History Museum, London; 
  • The New York Botanical Garden;
  • the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; 
  • and the United States Geological Survey
A key goal in the formation of the BHL was to address a major gap in the understanding of life on Earth. Information about species is often hard to find and access. This difficulty, known as the “taxonomic impediment” is especially acute in regards to library collections.

The published literature on biodiversity often had small press runs and limited global distribution; because of this, much of this literature is available in only a few select libraries – such as our BHL partners –  located in the developed world.  Uniquely valuable, these collections are often the only place where information and descriptions of species can be found. Through free and open global access to digitized versions, the vital information about the millions of species on Earth is available not only to visitors to the great collections such as those of Smithsonian Libraries, but also to researchers worldwide, especially in those areas of greatest biodiversity.

In the past three years, the BHL has expanded globally. In 2009, the success of the BHL model led to the formation of the BHL-Europe project with 28 institutional members. BHL-Europe is creating a European language portal and aggregating existing digitized literature. More recently, China (under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences), Australia (as part of the Atlas of Living Australia project), and Brazil, have created international nodes that now collaborate as part of a Global Biodiversity Heritage Library partnership.

Wall of fame
To help tie together this global community of librarians, biologists, and computer scientists, the BHL has cultivated a large social media network to foster dialogue with users and promote the BHL’s services and resources. This network includes an informative and engaging blog as well as an active presence on Twitter and Facebook.

To date, the BHL now provides access to nearly 100,000 volumes and over 36 million pages of taxonomic literature, many digitized through our partnership with the Internet Archive. BHL users come to us from nearly every country and region in the tens of thousands. But it is the individual stories of users that we count towards our success.

Stories such as that of a medical researcher in New Zealand who uses BHL in studying insect-borne diseases in 19th century India; or the Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife Services scientist who saves countless hours by making BHL the first stop in his research. The individual impact of BHL was confirmed when we heard from a biologist who took a position in remote Spearfish, South Dakota because the online resources of BHL provided access to a world-class science library that would otherwise be unavailable.

Though the BHL has made a great start, there is still work to be done. Come visit at Biodiversity Library dot org.

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