A Digital Library for Everyone | American Libraries Magazine

abernard102@gmail.com 2013-04-17


" ... Marx is director of the effort to launch the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), and the photos are part of its first exhibitions about emigrants leaving Europe to come to America. 'I’m not really allowed to look so much because I’ll get totally lost in it,' said Marx. 'If I start digging through stuff, I get totally sidetracked and won’t do any work.' That’s the spirit behind the project Marx is spearheading—an effort to digitize the nation’s little-known cultural archives and share them, completely free of charge, with the public. When DPLA launches April 18, it will already contain hundreds of collections from around the country, from daguerreotypes of African slaves to medieval manuscripts, from 19th-century newspapers from small-town Kentucky to newsreel footage from much of the past century. But the plan isn’t to stop there, said Marx. 'I hope every American cultural institution can be part of it,' she said. 'It’s not just about digitizing books but [about] broad access to a treasure trove of cultural materials.'  When DPLA launches, it will essentially be a portal to a fraction of what’s already out there on the web: an array of digitized special collections from all over the United States, from public to academic to special libraries and national collections, like the Smithsonian and the National Archives. What DPLA sets out to do is unite these materials at a single virtual place where people can access them.  It’s an idea that has intrigued DPLA’s content director Emily Gore for a long time. Gore has a deep appreciation for primary source material: the diaries, photographs, historical records, and artifacts scattered throughout the country at various libraries and museums.  When she worked for the State Library of North Carolina, Gore surveyed more than 1,000 cultural institutions, figuring out what special collections they housed and what kind of shape they were in. She drove around to hundreds of small towns, universities, and museums to look at their holdings ... The problem, Gore said, was that these things were spread out all over the state. And what’s more, you had to know they were there to look for them in the first place. 'We have these gems in our cultural heritage in our agencies,' said Gore. 'Sharing it is part of our natural progression. We didn’t have the tools to do that before. Now, we’re just marrying the tools with the resources.'  Gore is head of the Digital Hubs Pilot Project, a confederation of seven digital libraries (six state and one regional), along with several larger cultural and educational institutions that make up the beginning of what’s available at DPLA. The confederation includes digital libraries from Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah. Larger institutions like Harvard University are also on board to share their digital collections with DPLA. (The initiative will focus initially on content that is not copyrighted or has been cleared for public use.)  Instead of being a repository, DPLA will be more of an aggregator of existing digital content and part of the movement to further digitize US special collections. DPLA will aggregate the metadata on all these collections and allow users to search and discover materials they previously didn’t have access to or possibly didn’t even know existed ... The digital hubs project will also funnel money to smaller institutions that want to improve their digital collections ... Gore explained that DPLA is all about what librarians are passionate about: compelling content. The technology is just a way to get to more of it more easily ... Charles J. Henry has a rule of thumb: 'If there’s a large number of really talented people who want something to work, odds are it will,' he said.  It was the list of talented people on board that drew Henry, president of the Council on Library and Information Resources, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit, to join DPLA’s steering committee ... 'There are and were so many good people, good institutions, academics, grant agencies, and thought leaders involved with this project that makes it unique,' said Henry.  One of those talented folks is John Palfrey, DPLA board president and head of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts ... In the age of ebooks, said Palfrey, it’s vital that someone look out for the public interest in keeping information free and accessible ... Henry says



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Date tagged:

04/17/2013, 13:16

Date published:

04/17/2013, 09:16