Biodiversity Heritage Library

BHL Logo Image

Major support and hosting for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is provided by Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (SLA). A founding member of the BHL consortium, SLA has hosted the BHL Program Director and Secretariat from BHL’s inception. Since 2015, SLA and the Smithsonian have provided hosting of the BHL technical infrastructure. 

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. BHL is revolutionizing global research by providing free, worldwide access to knowledge about life on Earth.

To document Earth’s species and understand the complexities of swiftly-changing ecosystems in the midst of a major extinction crisis and widespread climate change, researchers need something that no single library can provide — access to the world’s collective knowledge about biodiversity. While natural history books and archives contain information that is critical to studying biodiversity, much of this material is available in only a handful of libraries globally. Scientists have long considered this lack of access to biodiversity literature as a major impediment to the efficiency of scientific research.

Headquartered at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives in Washington, D.C., BHL operates as a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to address this challenge by digitizing the natural history literature held in their collections and making it freely available for open access as part of a global “biodiversity community.”

Contributions by BHL’s many global partners reflect the global and border-spanning nature of biodiversity. No one library or institution can hold the vast amount of biodiversity literature recorded throughout history, and only through collaborative efforts such as BHL can this data be easily and openly shared with researchers around the world.

Since its launch in 2006, BHL has served tens of millions of people in over 240 countries and territories around the world. Through ongoing collaboration, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to open access, the Biodiversity Heritage Library will continue to transform research on a global scale and ensure that everyone, everywhere has the information and tools they need to study, explore and conserve life on Earth.