Notes about and history of the Bahá'í Library Online
Contents of this siteThe 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.
CreditsNumerous 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.
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.
HistoryA 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 versionsOne 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:
History in logos
PreservationIn 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).
Web hostingFrom 1998 until the present day, I support the technical costs of Bahá'í Library Online by running a dedicated server and a web hosting business, Winters Web Works. It is necessary to have a dedicated server, because the Library is too large and has too many custom needs to run on cheaper shared hosting.
The server costs about US$2,500/year. I sell web hosting accounts for the low rate of $99/year, which includes your own domain name. I only need to have about 25 customers to cover the cost of the server, but lately I've been running short and the server is operating at a loss. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in having a website, please visit WintersWebWorks.com or contact me to inquire about purchasing hosting, and supporting the Bahá'í Library. Thank you!