Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Public Library of America: from Concept to Hub to E-Books

There has been considerable discussion over the past few years about the development of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), as well as considerable work and contributions by partners and affiliated states. The project began to form in October of 2010, and in December of that year the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, convened leading experts in libraries, technology, law, and education to begin work on this ambitious project.

DPLA Digital Public Library of America  Visit dp.laThe DPLA describes itself as a free online library that provides access to millions of books, photographs, maps, audiovisual materials, and more from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. In one place, the public can find items from a wide range of institutions, from small and local, to large and national.

Developed from contributions by participating institutions, with major financial support from the Alfred B. Sloan Foundation, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, and others, the DPLA continues to expand its scope. It is structured as a common congregator for access to resource repositories, providing - as stated in its resource materials - a single point of access for students, teachers, and the public to a broad range of resources on a platform that enables "new and transformative uses of our digitized cultural heritage."

Wisconsin is preparing to serve as a service hub, operated by Recollection Wisconsin, with the following Governing Partners: Milwaukee Public Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, WiLS, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Recollection Wisconsin. In the 2016 LSTA plan the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has a grant category to help provide coordination support for the project.

Digital Public Library of America graphic showing structure of content and service hubs
Design structure for DPLA (infographic developed by community reps)
The DPLA already boasts access to tens of thousands of e-books, and plans to expand the collection with more resources. In April 2015, President Obama announced a major new program, Open Ebooks, that will provide children from across the country with greater access to thousands of e-books. The Open Ebooks initiative will include e-books from DPLA’s extensive collection of openly available content as well as contemporary titles from publishers, which are being generously donated as part of the effort and available for free to students from low-income families.

The DPLA is now recruiting  librarians and other information professionals to help validate and select books for inclusion in the program to help connect children with e-books. Librarians interested in participating in the "curator corps" can find more information here.

The DPLA is seeking those that would like to spread the word about what it is about to local communities. If you are enthusiastic about open access, digital collections, and the potential of a national digital library, get involved in outreach for DPLA by volunteering as a Community Rep.

Additional information and resources about the history of the Digital Public Library of America and its projects are compiled into a PDF document and reading list.

Written by
John DeBacher and Ryan Claringbole