Folks from the Biodiversity Heritage Library gave a presentation to Boston Library Consortium (BLC) members today about how they are using books and serials scanned from their collections into the Internet Archive (as charter participants in the Open Content Alliance) to create a scholarly portal (geek’s haven) for accessing their content in a variety of interesting ways. The natural science collections they are scanning, some of the oldest yet still currently used scientific literature, lends itself to searching by species and other like names. The most intriguing tool they have developed is to cross-index all the content of the books and journals they have scanned (and are continuing to scan) against the NameBank taxonomic classification system (currently at 10,775,553 records) created by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, whose library, the MBLHWHOI Library, is also a member of the BLC. As they explained it, names of plants, animals, insects, etc. in scientific literature very much depend upon history and precedence – where does this fit in with what has been observed and classified before? – which sounds to me a lot like the ISI principle of citation history – who cites whom – tracking the growth and development of a scholarly body of literature.
There’s no reason these same principles could not be applied to other scholarly schemes. Someone mentioned, for example, tracking every instance of the words “Tom Sawyer” in fiction not written by Samuel Clemens utilizing a human “namebank” would yield some fascinating results. A multi-type library academic consortium such as the BLC could provide fascinating “windows” into its scanned collection(s) this way. It also strikes me that there are a lot of institutional repository-like lessons to be learned here as well as a striking example of creating a sophisticated web interface using a dazzling variety (“purposeful emerging technology”) of off-the-shelf web tools / software / applications, etc.
Hit more for my detailed notes on today’s meeting-