The Digital Public Library of America: Moving from Concept to Reality


As the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) moves toward its launch date in April 2013, leading experts in libraries, technology, law, and education continue to explore the possibilities of a national digital public library through meetings, workshops, and even an Appfest. Operating under the principle that the DPLA is built upon efforts of the community, each event provides continued opportunities for librarians (among others) to shape the direction of the project.

Taking place in Chicago on October 11 and 12, 2012, DPLA Midwest featured keynotes, breakout sessions and working groups that brought together librarians, technologists, and other stakeholders. The DPLA's mission to "make the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity available, free of charge, to all" was evident throughout the meeting as the DPLA's six workstreams continued to develop the platform in preparation for next year's launch. The meeting also introduced the board of directors voted into office in September 2012. Following the meeting, the DPLA announced the appointment of Amy Rudersdorf, Digital Information Management Program at the State Library of North Carolina, to the position of Assistant Director for Content.



Participants came away from Chicago with a more refined understanding of the governance, financing, and technical infrastructure of the DPLA, as set forth in a five-year plan. As written by Dan Cohen, Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the project will “bring together the power and reach of the digital realm with the local community” by building a network of service hubs that are capable of harvesting metadata about collections around the country. As John Palfrey, president of DPLA’s board of directors, mentions on the Digital Shift Blog for Library Journal, the DPLA is an “on ramp” for librarians and patrons to find and utilize resources that currently exist in separate collections. 

In keeping with its mission to partner with community members, the DPLA hosted an Appfest at the Chattanooga Public Library in early November. This day-long event showcased web and mobile applications designed to work with the DPLA's platform. Participants pitched recommendation engines, widgets for library homepages, and visualizers capable of operating in concert with DPLA’s API. Chattanooga Public Library, meanwhile, solidified its position as the ideal site for such a forward-thinking festival; the library currently boasts data transmission speed of up to a gigabit per second, thanks to Google Fiber.

On December 6, 2012, the DPLA will host its third annual Audience Participation Workshop and Hackathon at George Mason University. The event promises to focus on outreach and marketing strategies to libraries and other institutions with whom DPLA might partner. As noted in a blog post by Rachel Frick, Director of the Digital Library Federation at the Council on Library and Information Resources, "the success of the DPLA is tied not only to technical infrastructure or the use of the platform and content, but to the strength of the community that contributes to the code and carries the conversation."

For more information on how to get involved with the DPLA, please visit this page to join the announcement list, participate in a workstream, or follow the social media channels.

If you are currently working on DPLA-related initiative, METRO would like to hear from you. Please be in touch with Anne Karle-Zenith, Digital Services Manager, or Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager.


photo credit: morninj via photopin under creative commons licensing