This is an important period in the history of digital libraries. Over the past decade, efforts led by the likes of HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and the Library of Congress have been successful in designing some of the first large-scale digital libraries that provide books, images, historical records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with Internet access. These are remarkable, ongoing achievements, but the dream of a truly national digital library—a single interactive platform and technical framework through which digital materials of all origins can be accessed—has yet to materialize.
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) initiative, which has already made concrete steps towards designing such a national entity, is the next chapter in a larger narrative dating back to the early 1990s. “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 the current and future generations”—that’s the goal. We can accomplish this. We’ve already started.
On October 21, 2011, the DPLA will hold a plenary meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC that will bring together the project’s major players: the six workstreams, the Beta Sprinters whose ideas and code have suggested a promising technical foundation for the DPLA, a number of leaders in the field of library and information science, and members of the public.
The agenda for October 21st is an exciting one. The “Perspectives on the Digital Public Library of America” session will bring together influential figures such as Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, Jill Cousins of Europeana, and Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.org to discuss their visions for the DPLA and its potential. The variety of experience and background in this group runs deep, and attendees both at the meeting in DC and in cyberspace (the entire meeting will be streamed live with closed captioning, right here) should expect a lively conversation.
David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, will open and close the event, and the nine most promising Beta Sprint submissions will present and explain their projects to the public.
There will also be an afternoon session devoted exclusively to the initiative’s six workstreams, who will have spent the previous day in an intensive series of meetings designed to lay out key priorities, critical challenges, and potential ways forward. Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library, will moderate the workstream presentations.
There is still a lot of work to be done beyond what we’ve seen already in the Beta Sprint projects and early workshops, but the plenary meeting in DC will mark a significant step forward in the journey. We hope you can make it!
More information about the plenary meeting, including a full agenda and list of speakers, is available here: DPLA Plenary Meeting: October 21, 2011
For those unable to make the plenary meeting, we will be live-streaming the entire event with close captioning on our website. Video will also be posted online after the event.
A full list of Beta Sprint submissions, including interactive demos, is also available online.
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