Documenting—and Digitizing—Biodiversity

In 2017, I spent a lot of time in the Regenstein Center, around the Lenhardt Library's librarian’s suite, Skyping in the Library’s rare book room, training at the circulation desk, and maybe even having lunch in the break room. I’m Alicia Esquivel, and I worked at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library as a resident on a collaborative project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

My cohort and I are hosted at different institutions across the United States (including the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, Natural History Museum Los Angeles, Smithsonian Libraries, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Chicago Botanic Garden) and we all researched best practices for digital libraries and made recommendations for improvement to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). BHL is a group of natural history and botanical libraries that work together to digitize books and articles about biodiversity and make them freely available to access and use. Over the past ten years, BHL has uploaded more than 50 million pages of biodiversity literature for public use.

(Left to right) 2017 BHL residents Ariadne Rehbein, Alicia Esquivel, Pamela McClanahan, Marissa Kings, and Katie Mika

My particular project is to define how much biodiversity literature is in the public domain and how much of it still needs to be added to BHL. This content analysis will help focus future digitization efforts by BHL and fill in gaps in the collection. By making this material available online for free, scientists and researchers from all over the world can have access to research needed to make new discoveries. This is especially helpful for scientists who may not be located near a library with the materials that they need. For more information on all of our projects and updates throughout the year, follow our blog!

I was excited to be hosted at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was my first time working at a botanic garden and I learned a lot about how a living museum functions and operates. I got to meet Boyce Tankersley from Living Plant Documentation and was blown away by all of the data his department is responsible for managing and all of the work his volunteers do. We have similar missions of creating and maintaining open data that can be linked and shared with other platforms to make discoveries.

Working at the Garden has inspired me to do some small-scale gardening (apartment living) of my own. After checking out a couple of books from the library, I started a windowsill planter of mixed herbs from seeds this spring. If anything goes wrong (quite possible), I know I can ask the Plant Information Service for help!

My phone’s camera roll is quickly filling up as I find a new, beautiful plant every day on my walk in to work.

Author: 
Alicia Esquivel
Published: 
May 9, 2017
Category: 

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