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April 2013

Digital Public Library of America

April 22, 2013 | Susan | Comments (0)

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has just been launched by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet Society.

DPLAhomepage
Digital Public Library of America website

Like the Europeana library, DPLA collects digital objects and their metadata from libraries, archives, universities, and other cultural institutions and makes it all available through an online portal. Contributing institutions so far include the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the New York Public Library, Harvard University, and several others across the United States.

You can search DPLA by keyword, browse by subject, map, or timeline, or explore curated exhibitions, which are organized by theme (e.g.: Activism in the U.S.) and sub-theme (e.g.: Civil Rights Movements; LGBT Activism; Women's Activism). If you register for an account, you can save your searches and items and create "playlists" to refer to or share with others.

You can also access all of the related metadata, which DPLA has decided to make freely available under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration. DPLA and Europeana have already worked together with that metadata to create an app that allows for a combined search of both resources. The metadata has also been used by the awesome Harvard's Library Innovation Lab to create DPLA StackLife, an app that makes (parts of) the virtual collection visible and discoverable.

At this point, DPLA is still pretty buggy and not yet completely formed. But it is an impressive start. Librarian and historian Robert Darnton, and one of DPLA's founders, describes the DPLA in an article in The New York Review of Books

"How to think of it? Not as a great edifice topped with a dome and standing on a gigantic database. The DPLA will be a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web. To make it work, we must think big and begin small. At first, the DPLA's offering will be limited to a rich variety of collections - books, manuscripts, and works of art - that have already been digitized in cultural institutions throughout the country. Around this core it will grow, gradually accumulating material of all kinds until it will function as a national digital library."

You can read more about DPLA in this Library Journal interview with Executive Director Dan Cohen, including his response to concerns that DPLA will replace some of the functions of public libraries. For some initial reaction to DPLA from librarians, take a look at this Library Journal article. And don't forget to take a look at the DPLA website itself and share your thoughts (I'm thinking, hm, what about a Digital Public Library of Canada?) in the comments section below.

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