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 project run by a team of volunteers with the help of many 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 www.bahai.us.
  • Do you see any errors, have suggestions, or have an item to submit to the site? Please contact us.
  • 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  • For a good — though now outdated — discussion of new digital media and limitations of the Bahá'í Library, see Dharlene Valeda's Organizing Digital Collections: the Case of the Bahá'í Academics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 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.

Credits

Numerous 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.

History

A 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 versions

The evolution of the Library can be seen from snapshots of previous front pages:
  • early 1997 (Beta version 0.8: housed at thestudent account utoronto.ca/~jwinters and called "Bahá'í Academics Resource Page")
  • late 1997 (Beta 0.9: moved to commercial hosting at interlog.com/~winters and called "Bahá'í Academics Resource Area")
  • 1998 (Version 1.0: moved to independent hosting as bahai-library.org and renamed "Bahá'í Academics Resource Library")
  • 1999 (1.1: organization and layout improvements)
  • 2000 (major content expansion)
  • 2001 (1.2: many tweaks to code)
  • 2002 (content expansion)
  • 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")
  • 2004 (2.1: many tweaks to code)
  • 2005 (Version 3.0: reprogrammed by Brett Zamir to use Smarty templating system — the backend was completely rewritten, but the frontend remained the same)
  • 2006 (3.1: some tweaks to code)
  • 2007 (minor updates only)
  • 2008 (minor updates only)
  • 2009 (3.2: last version of Brett's Smarty system before being re-modified by Jonah; Brett's system is still in use at bahai-academic.hk.)
  • 2010 (3.3: edited/formatted 1/3 of the 17,000 individual files posted 1997-2002 and completed the programming initiated in 2003)
  • 2011 (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])
  • 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.)
  • 2013 (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.)
  • 2014 (4.2: created Chronology database; more HTML files from the pre-2003 website ported to the database; adopted the listservers Tarikh and Tarjuman)
  • 2015 (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)
  • 2016-2017 (4.4: created Chronology and integrated it with the new Date search, Tags, and Places)
  • 2018-2019 (incremental updates only)
  • 2020 (4.5: added Glossaries & dictionaries; incremental updates; code updates to migrate to PHP 7; added listservers Hikmat, Issues, Kalimat, and Tech.)
  • 2021 (added Facebook Work Group; added collections Songs & sheet music, Compilations by National Spiritual Assemblies, and Scripts & screenplays; sorting my offline archive of about 20,000 documents-to-be-posted and put many online; migrating the 1997-2002 files to the database; Version 5 programming begun, by I.V. and B.Z.)
  • 2022 (Starting work on Version 5.0; to-do list; sorting my offline archive; still migrating the 1997-2002 files to the database; going through all 6100 database entries one-by-one to improve formatting or update code)
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


2022 (concept proposal, for Version 5)

Ownership & preservation

The Library is collectively owned by a "council" of 11 advisors who have voting power over a smaller 3-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.

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