Help

FAQ

FAQ

What is DPLA?

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata — or information describing an item — and thumbnails for millions of photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. DPLA brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. You can read more about DPLA’s mission on the About page.

For users

DPLA offers a single point of access to millions of items from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search DPLA’s collections by timeline, mapvirtual bookshelf, and faceted search; save and share customized lists of items; explore digital exhibitions; and interact with DPLA-powered apps in the app library.

For libraries, museums, and archives

DPLA offers institutions the opportunity to reach more users, increase access to their content, and collaborate in new ways. For more information, see our Become a Hub section.

For developers

The DPLA API offers access to metadata on millions of items (and growing!). For more information, check out our section for developers.

FAQs

What kinds of resources can I find on DPLA?
How much does DPLA cost to use?
Do you have physical copies of the items in DPLA?
Do you answer reference questions like a brick-and-mortar library?
Do you have a mobile app?
What is the copyright status of items in DPLA?
I want to use an item that I found for a project. Do I need to secure permissions?
I’ve heard a lot about metadata. What is it?
How do items end up in DPLA?
Can I contribute content to DPLA?
Which metadata standard do you use?
What technologies do you use?
Can I use your code?
Is the DPLA site accessible?
I’m eager to support DPLA. How can I get involved?
How is DPLA funded?
Can I donate to DPLA?
What’s the history of DPLA in a nutshell?

What kinds of resources can I find on DPLA?

DPLA contains metadata records—information describing an item—for millions of photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Each record links to the original object on the content provider’s website.

How much does DPLA cost to use?

Access to DPLA is free of charge for all users.

Do you have physical copies of the items in DPLA?

DPLA is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata about digital objects held by libraries, museums, and archives around the country. DPLA does not hold physical copies of objects in its database.

Do you answer reference questions like a brick-and-mortar library?

We’re always happy to answer questions about how to use DPLA or discover relevant material in our collections, but we do not offer universal reference services like you might find in your local library (i.e., assistance with questions pertaining to municipal and federal services, the law, résumé help, and so forth).

Do you have a mobile app?

The DPLA website is built entirely in HTML5, meaning it will automatically format itself to look just as beautiful on your handheld device as it does on your laptop or personal computer. There are also a number of DPLA-powered apps, some of which are available as mobile apps for iOS and Android, in our app library.

What is the copyright status of items in DPLA?

An example of the "Rights" field in a DPLA record.

An example of the “Rights” field in a DPLA record. Click to enlarge image.

The copyright status of items in DPLA varies. DPLA links to a wide variety of different materials: many are in the public domain, while others are under rights restrictions  but nonetheless publicly viewable. For individual rights information about an item, please check the “Rights” field in the metadata, or follow the link to the digital object on the content provider’s website for more information.

 

I want to use an item that I found for a project. Do I need to secure permissions?

Whether or not you will need to secure permissions to use an item found in DPLA is based on the content provider and the individual rights status of the item, as well as the nature of your proposed use. In any event, please do not contact DPLA directly about permissions — you must contact the content provider of the item.  Each metadata record in DPLA contains a link to the item on the content provider’s website. Many items in DPLA are in the public domain, or they are available under a license that allows for re-use; information about the rights status for an individual item can be found in the “Rights” field (see above).

I’ve heard a lot about metadata. What is it?

Metadata is textual information relating to content, which in the case of DPLA is either hosted or housed by a DPLA content parter or digitally stored on DPLA’s servers.  Metadata includes information that enables users to identify, discover, interpret, or manage content, such as the name of the author of the work, the date on which it was first created or published, or where the physical object is located.  It might also include an expressive description of the content: for example, a brief blurb on the historical and cultural implications of a work.  Metadata may also include hyperlinks that direct users to content on a content partner’s website. You can read more about metadata and its various flavors here.

How do items end up in DPLA?

DPLA content staff works with our ever-growing roster of content and service hubs to add records to our collection. The Digital Hubs Program is a DPLA program designed to establish a national network out of the over 40 state/regional digital libraries (Service Hubs) and myriad large digital libraries (Content Hubs) in the US, bringing together digitized content from across the country into a single access point for end-users, and an open platform for developers.

What’s the difference between these two types of hubs?

Service Hubs aggregate data on behalf of a given state or region. Each Service Hub offers a full menu of standardized digital services to local institutions, including digitization, metadata consultation, data aggregation and storage services, as well as locally hosted community outreach programs that bring users in contact with digital content of local relevance.

Content Hubs are large digital libraries, museums, archives, or repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with DPLA. Content Hubs as a general rule have more than 200,000 unique metadata records to contribute to DPLA, and they commit to maintaining and editing those records as needed.

Can I contribute content to DPLA?

At this stage, DPLA only accepts new content through its Hubs partnership model. For more information on becoming or working with one of these hubs, including how you can potentially contribute content that may make its way into DPLA, see our Become a Hub section.

Which metadata standard do you use?

The DPLA API is built following the DPLA Metadata Application Profile (MAP), our internal metadata schema. The DPLA MAP is designed to build on the experience of the Europeana Data Model (EDM) and to crosswalk with commonly used metadata standards, including Dublin Core (qualified and unqualified), MODS, and others. It references Dublin Core, ORE, and a variety of controlled vocabularies and thesauri. A preliminary release of the RDF schema is also available. The MAP will continue to evolve to implement more linked-data friendly methodologies to better share, expose, and connect DPLA’s content with users across the web.

What technologies do you use?

DPLA uses a variety of free and open source software, both in terms of software developed by others and software we’ve developed.

  • Ingesting data from hubs. We receive data from our hubs in a variety of formats, and we use the Akara framework and the Python programming language to process and enrich the data to conform to the DPLA Metadata Application Profile. Once processed, the data gets stored in CouchDB, an open source database.
  • The DPLA platform. The platform, which provides an API to DPLA’s data, is a Ruby on Rails application that interacts with our Elasticsearch search index.
  • The DPLA portal. Our portal is our public interface to the materials provided to us by our content and service hubs, and is built using Ruby on Rails, the PostgreSQL database platform, and JavaScript libraries such as Backbone.jsLeaflet, and jQuery.
  • DPLA Exhibitions. Our exhibitions are built using Omeka and feature a zoomable image viewer using the OpenSeadragon JavaScript Library.

Can I use your code?

All of the software that DPLA has developed — the ingestion code, platform, portal, and exhibitions — is available on Github under a  GNU Affero Public License.

Is the DPLA site accessible?

The DPLA site follows open web standards. It is coded as valid HTML5 and CSS3, and meets all WCAG 2.0 Level A and many AA priorities. The site makes use of the HTML5 tags header, footer, nav, article, and aside to give enhanced semantic meaning to page sections. The site also makes use of the ARIA landmark roles banner, navigation, search, main, and contentinfo, to give enhanced semantic meaning to page sections. In terms of steplinks and access keys, the site includes a set of invisible links at the beginning and end of every page for jumping directly to the top navigation, main navigation, search form, main content, and social media navigation. These are assigned numbers 1-5 using the HTML attribute accesskey. Additionally, the site’s features are available in a basic state with JavaScript turned off, for assistive technologies that do not support it and situations where it has been disabled.

I’m eager to support DPLA. How can I get involved?

Woohoo! There are a number of ways to get involved in and/or support our work. Here are a few:

How is DPLA funded?

DPLA is funded by grants from a number of foundations and government agencies. For more information, see our funding page.

Can I donate to DPLA?

Yes! For information on how to donate to DPLA, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, visit our donations page.

What’s the history of DPLA in a nutshell?

DPLA is the result of a two-year planning process, involving hundreds of people from across the country. It began in October 2010 at a meeting in Cambridge, MA. During this meeting, 40 leaders from libraries, foundations, academia, and technology projects agreed to work together to create “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future ­generations.”

In December 2010, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, convened leading experts in libraries, technology, law, and education to begin work on this ambitious project. A two-year process of intense grassroots community organization, beginning in October 2011 and hosted at the Berkman Center, brought together hundreds of public and research librarians, innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers—organized into six workstreams and led by a distinguished Steering Committee—helped to scope, design, and construct DPLA.

DPLA is led now by Executive Director Dan Cohen and guided by a distinguished Board of Directors. To read more about DPLA’s history, as well as explore historical materials from the planning phase, visit our history page.

last updated on March 8, 2014