Notes about and history of the Bahá'í Library Online
Contents of this siteThe vision statement of Bahá'í Library Online includes the following summaries of our methodology. The four criteria we 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. Some of the earliest supporters and contributors of content (1997-1999) in chronological order were Sen McGlinn, Ahang Rabbani, Robert Stauffer, Denis MacEoin, Will van den Hoonaard, Robert Stockman, Thellie Lovejoy, Guilda Mickelson, Alison Marshall, Alan Doug Couper, Duane Troxel, Anthony Lee, John Cornell, Dianne Bradford, Ralph Wagner, Shirley Macias, Seena Fazel, Mehdi Wolf, Alex Christian, and Joyce Raines. After 2000, many others contributed certain other items or collections, including Don Calkins, Bobbi Lyons, Mike W. Thomas, and many others.
Since 2014, Glenn Cameron has done a tremendous amount of work for his Chronology of the Bahá'í Faith. From 2001-2015 the chief assistant editor was Brett Zamir. Since 2017 Arjen Bolhuis has been single-handedly expanding the tagging system, along with editing, contributing to the Chronology, and adding documents. Peter Smith helps write abstracts. The logo is by Ramin Marghi (2012). See also an earlier list of contributors and assistants and some of their personal pages. Special thanks to the valuable contributions of Marcel Schwarz.
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 [Winters] 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. That being done I thought, "well, now I might as well post my other 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 1997-2002 I sometimes worked on it as a full-time job, alternating with mentoring for the Wilmette Institute and web-hosting/design.
In 2003 I converted the website from a manually-created, HTML-based site (Version 1) to a dynamic database-driven site, custom programmed in PHP with a MySQL backend (Version 2). Brett Zamir then completely rewrote and improved the backend in 2005-06 (Version 3), overhauling and streamlining the code, adding security features and language packs, and creating a template/cache system. I took a vacation from the library through 2009 while my second child was at home, while Brett grew it and improved the programming. I returned to the project in 2010 to add new content and interface tweaks. I then reprogrammed the backend in 2012 to make numerous updates to the site's appearance and functioning (Version 4).
The site is again in need of a complete overhaul, which will be done in 2022 and 2023 (Version 5). I withdrew ownership in 2022, and the Library is now collectively managed by a small team of volunteers.
See an expanded history of the site at Bahá'í Library Online at 25: Background, Functioning, and Future (2022), or the now-outdated Vision statement prepared for the International Conference on Bahá'í Libraries and Archives (2003) and my presentation What Is a Content Management System? prepared for the 2003 ABS conference.
This site is older than Slashdot (1997), Google (1998), and Wikipedia (2001)! See a Wiki page at bahaikipedia.org/Bahai-library.com.
History: previous versionsThe evolution of the Library can be seen from snapshots of previous front pages:
History in logos
2022 (concept proposal, for Version 5)
Ownership & preservationThe Library will soon (July 2023) be registered as a non-profit in the state of New York. Until then it is collectively "owned" by a "council" of 19 (a coincidence!) advisors who have voting power over a smaller 4-member "board," who have equal say in the website's function and content. Multiple people in this group have the relevant passwords (for the server and the domain registrar), so the site is not under any one person's control. The managing editor is Jonah Winters.
Two Facebook groups are in place, for collaboration or in case of technical issues with the Library (or other websites hosted on the same server): Bahá'í Library Work Group and Winters Web Works Support Group.
See more in the presentation Bahá'í Library Online at 25: Background, Functioning, and Future (2022).