Bahá'í Library Online
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Notes about and history of the Bahá'í Library Online

Contents

Notes

  • This library is a private, independent, all-volunteer project created by Jonah Winters and a team of contributors. It and its content are wholly unofficial and are not sponsored or endorsed by any Bahá'í body or institution. It is not affiliated with the Bahá'í Reference Library. For official Bahá'í starting points, try www.bahai.org or us.bahai.org.
  • Do you see any errors, have suggestions, or have an item to submit to the site? Please contact us. Would you like to add your own data about this website? See its Wiki page at bahaikipedia.org/Bahai-library.com.
  • Due to limited human resources, most material at this site lacks diacritics and may contain occasional errors; no items should be considered exact facsimiles of published originals. While all files have been proofread at least once for obvious errors and inaccuracies, no files have undergone the level of proofreading and fact verification to which official publications are subjected. Some articles have also been written by those for whom English is a second language; these may contain irregular style and spelling. As well, every document (save Sacred Writings) should be considered as representing the opinion or scholarship of the author only, and may not reflect either common Bahá'í belief or the opinions of the editors of this Library.
  • Other than items reposted under "Fair Use" or "Creative Commons" license, every document in this Library has been approved for posting by the author, editor, or publisher. See also notes on copyright.
  • For a good — though now outdated — discussion of the "mandate" and limitations of the Bahá'í Library, see Dharlene Valeda's "Organizing Digital Collections: the Case of the Bahá'í Academics Resource Library."

Contents of this site

The mandate/vision statement of Bahá'í Library Online includes the following summaries of my methodology. The four criteria I use in deciding what to include are whether an item is (1) scholastically useful; (2) historically significant; (3) is a primary source, e.g. the Sacred Writings; or (4) has been published by reputable, scholastically-oriented agencies. This is usually regardless of content. That is, materials are neither accepted nor rejected on the basis of the author's belief or the relevance of the material to promoting "entry by troops." However, the four criteria outlined above do tend to exclude basic deepening material, promotional items, simple apologia, and polemical or tendentious material.

This Library is careful to conform to both Bahá'í and academic standards. It only includes material that is informative or historical, is written in a respectful manner, and is not intentionally deceptive. It does not contain any material which is proscribed in Bahá'í practice, e.g. Covenant-breaker materials, personal or confidential documents, or photographs of Bahá'u'lláh. It also does not include any material which does not have a direct scholarly or historical application, such as "Teaching" manuals or contemporary photography.

Credits

Numerous people have contributed to making this website as broad and comprehensive as it is, and space prevents my making a complete list. I would like to cite some of the earliest supporters and contributors of content, as a thank-you for their early recognition of the importance of the project and their willingness to help get it off the ground in its nascent years (1997-99). In chronological order: Sen McGlinn, Ahang Rabbani, Robert Stauffer, Denis MacEoin, Will van den Hoonaard, Robert Stockman, Thellie Lovejoy, Guilda Mickelson, Alison Marshall, Alan Couper, Duane Troxel, Anthony Lee, John Cornell, Dianne Bradford, Ralph Wagner, Shirley Macias, Seena Fazel, Mehdi Wolf, Alex Christian, and Joyce Raines.

Since 2001 the chief assistant has been Brett Zamir. The logo is by Ramin Marghi. See also a list of contributors and assistants and some of their personal pages.

Most of all, we thank the authors of items in the Library. The work of 150 years and thousands of people is reflected in this site which, no matter how large, is still and always will be the tip of the Bahá'í scholarship iceberg.

All pieces quoted from this site should be cited to give proper credit and/or responsibility for error to the authors and to myself. It may be outdated now, but one style-manual for internet citations is Melvin Page's A Brief Citation Guide for Internet Sources in History and the Humanities.

History

A few times in 1996 friends asked me to email them copies of some of my grad school papers. When I was asked for copies of one paper twice in one week in January 1997 I decided to figure out how to publish for the web, so I wouldn't have to email it a third time. That being done I thought, "well, now I might as well post my other decent papers!" It then occurred to me that, since I had been collecting all the documents posted on Talisman 1 and other early internet groups, I must have one of the larger collections of articles, translations, and letters from the Universal House of Justice in digital format. Spring break was coming up and I had a week free, and before I knew it or could stop (!) the Bahá'í Library had sprung. From spring 1997 through 2002 I worked on it as a full-time job, alternating my time only with work for the Wilmette Institute and web-hosting/design on the side.

In 2003 I converted the website from a manually-created, HTML-based site to a dynamic database-driven site, custom programmed in PHP with a MySQL backend. Brett Zamir then completely rewrote and improved the backend in 2005-06, overhauling and streamlining the code, adding security features and language packs, and creating a template/cache system. I took a 4-year vacation from the library through 2009 while my second child was at home, leaving the Library in Brett's capable hands. I returned to the project with renewed enthusiasm and spent 2010-2012 (skipping classes at my massage therapy school!) to add a huge amount of new content and reprogram the backend. (Brett's revamped code is still in use at one of his other sites, www.bahai-academic.hk.)

To see an overview of this website and why it was needed, read the Vision Statement prepared for the International Conference on Bahá'í Libraries and Archives (Landegg University, January 2003; see a photo of Dharlene's presentation), and my presentation What Is a Content Management System?, prepared for my presentation to the ABS Special Interest Group "Bahá'í Language Educators" meeting at the ABS conference in San Francisco, August 2003.

This site is older than Slashdot (late 1997), Google (1998), and Wikipedia (2001). By 2010 I had easily passed the 10,000-hour mark — not yet counting the innumerable hours put in by Brett and the many contributors! Where's the time go?! A lot of background work that's never seen, like correspondence with seekers and authors, spell-checking, finessing the programming and interface, proofreading, HTML formatting, HTML cleanup, regular maintenance of "link rot," and answering people's research questions. That time estimate also includes works like the Resource Guide, the Wilmette Institute notes, or the Bibliography for the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh series, projects which took 200-300 hours each.

History: previous versions

One can see the evolution of the Library by viewing some snapshots of previous front pages, below. While tongue-in-cheek, the version numbers do reflect the extent of changes:
  1. early 1997 (Beta version 0.8: housed at my student account utoronto.ca/~jwinters and called "Bahá'í Academics Resource Page")
  2. late 1997 (Beta 0.9: moved to commercial hosting at interlog.com/~winters and called "Bahá'í Academics Resource Area")
  3. 1998 (Version 1.0: moved to independent hosting as bahai-library.org and renamed "Bahá'í Academics Resource Library")
  4. 1999 (1.5)
  5. 2000 (1.6)
  6. 2001 (1.7)
  7. 2002 (1.8)
  8. 2003 (Version 2.0: transformed into a dynamic database site, moved to a dedicated server as bahai-library.com, and renamed "Bahá'í Library Online")
  9. 2004 (2.1)
  10. 2005 (2.5: reprogrammed by Brett Zamir to use Smarty templating system — the backend was completely rewritten, but the frontend remained the same)
  11. 2006 (2.6: minor updates only)
  12. 2007 (2.7: minor updates only)
  13. 2008 (2.8: minor updates only)
  14. 2009 (2.9: last version of Brett's Smarty system before being re-modified by Jonah; Brett's system is still in use at bahai-academic.hk.)
  15. 2010 (Version 3.0: edited/formatted 1/3 of the 17,000 individual files posted 1997-2002 and completed the programming initiated in 2003)
  16. 2011 (3.1: refined output; security tweaks; slogged through migrating another 1/3 of the thousands of files posted 1997-2002 [in the pre-database days many items were posted as multiple files, e.g. books which had a different file for each page])
  17. 2012 (Version 4.0: start-from-scratch rewrite of all backend code; many small but cumulative changes to interface and design; (almost) completed importing & editing of all prior items; huge amount of new content; see What's New in Version 4.0.)
  18. 2013 (Version 4.1: completed organizing and sorting (a selected portion of) 15 years' worth of collected files (audio, pdf, doc, images, html, etc) and completed cleaning up the database to the point that (a selected portion of) the complete dataset can be shared by BitTorrent; Bahá'í presence established on Freenet.)
  19. 2014 (Version 4.2: created Chronology database; more HTML files from the pre-2003 website ported to the database; adopted the listservers Tarikh and Tarjuman)
  20. 2015 (Version 4.3: imported more data for the Chronology and integrated it with the new Date search, Tags, and Places; began a tag cloud; uploaded/published another 350 items; moderated the Facebook Bahá'í Studies group)
  21. 2016 (Version 4.4: incremental updates)
  22. 2017 (Version 4.5, planned: finish sorting my offline archive of about 5000 documents-to-be-posted and put many online; finish migrating the 1997-2002 files to the database)
  23. 2018 (Version 5.0, in planning: early stages of the next overhaul; begin dealing with the to-do list)
See also archived versions of the entire website at archive.org:
  1. archives 1999-2003 for bahai-library.org
  2. archives starting 2003 for bahai-library.com
History in logos


1997


1999


2003


2010


2012

Preservation

In case of my untimely demise, control of the website and its domain names devolve to Brett Zamir. Should Brett be unavailable, access has been granted to Robert Stockman who will pass it on to capable hands. They, and select others, have all the necessary passwords. Adib Masumian has an offsite backup of the forum, the unsanitized database, and the PHP files which run the CMS, as well as a copy of my not-yet-posted archive (materials waiting to be sorted, formatted, or approved — which at 10GB is equivalent in size to the already-posted content).

The public database, which represents about 75% of the library's content, can also be downloaded by BitTorrent. A Freenet version is in progress.

Web hosting

From 1998-2006 I supported the technical costs of Bahá'í Library Online by running a dedicated server and a web hosting business, Winters Web Works. In 2007 I signed this business over to my friend and long-time business partner Kean Gray, of MomoWeb Hosting & Design. In exchange, he gives free hosting to the Bahá'í Library. Kean offers low prices for domains and web hosting, but most important he provides a reliable, personal, and conscientious business; because of these qualities he was my first choice to adopt my Winters Web Works clients and take over the server. Kean's donation of hosting saves the Bahá'í Library the $2,000/year it would otherwise cost to run a dedicated server.

MomoWeb Hosting & Design is a small business run out of Vancouver, serving both commercial clients and non-profit groups. Please show your appreciation by sending some business his way, momoweb.ca.

Awards (from 1997-2002, back when people still cared about hokey web awards)

Key Resource
Online Subject Catalog of Academic Resources select site

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