The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), the digitization component of the Encyclopedia of Life, is a consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions organized to digitize, serve, and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity. The European Commission’s eContentPlus program has recently funded the BHL-Europe project, with 28 institutions, to assemble the European language literature. In addition, negotiations are being pursued with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Atlas of Living Australia and Brazil to join the BHL consortium. These projects will work together to share content, protocols, services, and digital preservation practices. Prior to digitization, the resources housed within each BHL institution have existed in isolation, available only to those with physical access to the collections. These collections are of exceptional value because the domain of systematic biology depends – more than any other science – upon historic literature. Consequently, the relative isolation of these collections presented an antiquated obstacle to further biodiversity investigation. This problem is particularly acute for the developing countries that are home to the majority of the world’s biodiversity.