Greetings from the Biodiversity Heritage Library!

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Hello Science Gossip Community (and thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself, Geoff Belknap!) I am looking forward to getting to know you! My name is Ariadne Rehbein and I am serving as a National Digital Stewardship Resident (NDSR) for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL,) a natural history and botanical library consortium dedicated to making biodiversity literature openly available through a digital library of the same name. I am based at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO, one of the founding members of BHL. Five BHL NDSR Residents are working on requirements to improve the functionality of the BHL digital library this year. (Keep up with all of our work through our blog!) NDSR is an Institute of Library and Museum Services program that supports the development of digital stewardship professionals in the United States.

My project focuses on improving access to natural history illustrations through the BHL digital library; illustrations that have been described through your efforts and the work of “taggers” on BHL’s Flickr account. Science Gossip was launched just a few months before the end of BHL’s Art of Life grant project in 2015, a celebrated collaboration between Trish Rose-Sandler and the AoL team members, Dr. Geoff Belknap of Constructing Scientific Communities, and Zooniverse.

Your work as a research community is groundbreaking; and for BHL it raises a similarly groundbreaking question: How does a digital library organization determine how to grow from its experiments in reaching new audiences? Research into the types of audiences reached through BHL’s illustration-based outreach and crowdsourcing initiatives, and their needs, has been very limited. BHL thus far has sought to meet the needs of scientists and librarians through its digital library functionality, reflecting the missions of its consortial members.

I have lots of research to do before I can determine technical requirements. Interface functionality surrounding illustrations based upon user studies and a method for metadata integration are required for my project. But what is the best way for BHL to approach future data production and engagement with content through crowdsourcing? I hope I can ask for your help. I would like to provide BHL with a clearer picture of who you are and what motivates you in your work. What are your opinions regarding sharing your work in a digital library? How might you like to use the data? I also believe it is critically important to convey what has made your work successful, and if and how you would like to improve it.

More to come

There are lots of interesting elements to this project that I would like to share as time goes on. There are many more illustrations to be described; crowdsourcing has just scratched the surface of the approximately 4 million that remain. Prioritizing these illustrations for description based on stakeholder viewpoints and determining an appropriate way to undertake this are future goals.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope to reach out again soon. (I am still in the process of honing my methodology and questions!) In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions for me, I welcome you to reach me at ariadne.rehbein@mobot.org or through Science Gossip at arehbein.

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