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. See more in the mandate / vision statement.
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 rewrote and improved the backend code in 2005-06. I took a 4-year vacation from the project 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.
To see an overview of this project 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.
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 accurately reflect the extent of changes:
History in logos
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. 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, I 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.
Preservation: in case of my untimely demise, control of the website and its domain names devolve to Brett Zamir; should he be unavailable, access has been granted to Robert Stockman who will pass it on to capable hands.
Web hostingFrom 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)