What is DPLA?

The Digital Public Library of America amplifies the value of libraries and cultural organizations as Americans’ most trusted sources of shared knowledge. We do this by collaborating with partners to accelerate innovative tools and ideas that empower and equip libraries to make information more accessible.

We work with a national network of partners to:

  • Make millions of materials from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions across the country available to all in a one-stop discovery experience.
  • Provide a library-controlled marketplace and platform for libraries to purchase, organize, and deliver ebooks and other e-content to their patrons.
  • Convene library leaders and practitioners to explore and advance technologies that serve, inform, and empower their communities.

To find out more about our mission, strategy, and work, please see our Strategic Plan.

Do you provide the same sorts of services that my local library does?

We are 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). For more information about ongoing DPLA initiatives, such as our hub network and our ebooks work, visit DPLA Pro.

Do you have physical copies of your items?

No, DPLA is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata from libraries, museums and institutions around the country. We provide an easy to use search interface so you can get the power that comes with searching millions of records at once. If you need a physical copy of an item, please get in touch with the contributing institution, which you can find listed on an item page below the thumbnail image.

How do I find what I’m looking for?

Check out our Search Tips for more on how to explore DPLA.

Do I need a library card?

No, DPLA doesn’t require any sign up to use.

Do you answer reference questions?

We’re always happy to answer questions about how to use DPLA or discover relevant material in our collections, but we do not offer all of the universal reference services like you might find in your local library.

Does DPLA have a mobile app?

No. However, DPLA’s website is responsive and mobile-friendly.

What’s the deal with copyright and a DPLA item?

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.

What are those icons on a DPLA record?

Rights Statements icons are part of a new endeavor, developed in collaboration with Europeana, to clearly communicate the copyright status of items available on our site. We will be working with our content providers to attach a standardized rights statement, and accompanying icon, to each of our records. This makes it a streamlined experience for you, our users — you’ll be able to tell, by a glance, whether or not a particular item is available to re-use.

I want to secure rights to a particular DPLA item. Whom should I email about that?

Please do not contact DPLA directly about item specific permissions — you must contact the institution that provided the content to DPLA. Each metadata record in DPLA contains a link to the item on the content provider’s website.

How does DPLA get content?

We work with organizations (called Hubs) around the country to add content to our collection. Visit the Hub Network page on DPLA Pro to learn more about our Hub partnership model.

Can I contribute content to DPLA?

DPLA only accepts content through our Hubs, including Service Hubs that bring content together from libraries, archives and museums, and other cultural heritage institutions in a state or region. If you are interested in partnering with a Service Hub to share your metadata or in forming a Hub, visit the Become a Hub page on DPLA Pro.

What is metadata?

Metadata is information that enables users to discover, identify, interpret, or manage content. For example, metadata may include the title of an item, the name of the creator of the work, the date on which it was first created or published, or where the physical object is located. Metadata in DPLA may also contain a brief description that provides information about the historical and cultural context of an item. Each of our metadata records also include a link that directs you to the item on the contributor’s website.

I have a bunch of other questions about your metadata model or Hub network. Can you help me?

Of course! Visit DPLA Pro to learn more or reach out to content@dp.la.

What technologies does DPLA use?

We’re a firm believer in open source technology, both in terms of use and our open source code which is available on Github.

Where can I see your stack?

Head over to the Developers page on DPLA Pro to find more information about our tech stack or visit our organization on Github.

Can I use your code?

All of the software that DPLA has developed — the ingestion code, platform, portal, and exhibitions — is available under open source licenses.

Is DPLA accessible?

DPLA follows open web standards and follows best practice accessibility guidelines. If you notice anything awry, or wish for more information, contact us at accessibility@dp.la.

DPLA gets blocked on my network. Why is that?

DPLA uses an unconventional URL which may be blocked by some filters. Get in touch with your network administrator if that’s the case, and ask them to whitelist dp.la. If you have issues, contact DPLA.

How is DPLA funded?

DPLA is funded through generous contributions from foundations and individuals, as well as our member network. See a list of our current funders here. If you’d like to make an individual donation to DPLA, please click here.

Can I donate to DPLA?

Yes! DPLA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and all donations are tax deductible. Visit our donate page for more information.