“Since the first steps towards making real the long-discussed notion of a US digital public library were mooted at a meeting at Harvard University in October 2010, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has leapt out of the stalls. It has attracted worldwide attention, produced an exceptionally lively discussion list and inspired enthusiasm from across the education and library communities. Progress has continued at a pace, from technological beta sprints to intense grassroots activity, ensuring that the DPLA is on course to be launched in April 2013.
“Listening to the initiative’s chief architect at a recent JISC/SCONUL lecture in London, it is not difficult to understand how the project has got off the ground so swiftly and ambitiously. Robert Darnton is an inspiring speaker, passionate about the free access of knowledge to humanity for the good of humanity. He invokes Thomas Jefferson’s observation that the spread of knowledge benefits all without reducing its value, to convey the idea that the public good encompasses access to knowledge as well as access to more conventionally assumed public goods such as clean air and sanitation.
“For Darnton, the DPLA is firmly set within the ‘open’ framework he has so strongly advocated while Director of the University Library at Harvard, where he was a key player behind the university’s adoption of an open access mandate.
“’Everyone, everywhere will have access to it [the DPLA] through the internet at no cost. The whole idea is to make the public heritage available to the public and so it is fundamentally a non-commercial enterprise. Yet there will be a spirit of enterprise behind it because, of course, it must be carefully designed. There must be a sound business plan to cover costs. We are working hard to be realistic and pragmatic but the basic principle is to make all knowledge available, free of charge to everyone. So the DPLA is definitely aligned with the open access movement,’ he says.”
From the article in Issue 33 (Spring 2012) of JISC Inform, Digital Public Library of America