RECOMMENDED: Digital Public Library of America

April 18, 2013, marked the launch of the Digital Public Library of America. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton, Harvard’s University Librarian and a DPLA founder, marked the occasion with an exclamation point–“The National Digital Public Library Is Launched!“– and framed the project as representative of “the confluence of two currents that have shaped American civilization: utopianism and pragmatism.” He continues:

How do these two tendencies converge in the Digital Public Library of America? For all its futuristic technology, the DPLAharkens back to the eighteenth century. What could be more utopian than a project to make the cultural heritage of humanity available to all humans? What could be more pragmatic than the designing of a system to link up millions of megabytes and deliver them to readers in the form of easily accessible texts?

Darnton describes the evolution of the DPLA, contextualizes it among other large-scale efforts, and provides a sense of how the project will progress.

Thus far, the DPLA provides discovery of select digital collections from NARA, Mountain West Digital Library, the Digital Library of Georgia, Harvard, NYPL, the Smithsonian, and a growing number of other content hubs. Partnerships fueling the library include content hubs, “large digital libraries, museums, archives, or repositories that provide a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA”; service hubs, “state or regional digital libraries that aggregate information” within their areas; and collaborators.

DPLA has made their API and Metadata Application Profile, “designed to build on the experience of the Europeana Data Model … to accommodate existing and emerging data models for library, archive, and museum resources,” publicly available. Indeed, the Search DPLA and Europeana app, developed by Jesus Dominguez, allows users to search across both platforms. Other tools, such as MetaLab‘s Library Observatory app  and Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab’s StackLife DPLA site, allow visualizations of searches and browsing across the collections. DPLA also features several themed exhibits, built using Omeka.

Writing in Library Journal‘s “The Digital Shift,” Matt Enis reported on public and librarian responses to be launch, observing:

Reactions on twitter were enthusiastic on Thursday. Rachel Frick, director of the Digital Library Federation Program, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) posted “#dpla experiencing half million views per hour. NICE.” Jonathan Zittrain, Co-Founder and Director for Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society tweeted that “The @dpla has geocoded its archives — is wonderfully addictive. (Zooming in shows more and more.)” And the official account of NYPL Labstweeted “And for nerds like us, not only does @DPLA offer a SICK API, but there’s a BULK DATA DOWNLOAD too!”

And it’s a handsome website to boot.


This post was produced through a cooperation between Caro Pinto, Patrick Williams, and Amy Wickner (Editors-at-Large for the week), Sarah Potvin (dh+lib review editor for the week), and Zach Coble and Roxanne Shirazi (site editors).