The Digital Public Library of America launched on April 18, 2013, less than two years ago. And what a couple of years it has been. From a staff of three people, a starting slate of two million items, and 500 contributing institutions, we are now an organization of 12, with over eight million items from 1,300 contributing institutions. We have materials from all 50 states—and from around the world—in a remarkable 400 languages. Within our collection are millions of books and photographs, maps of all shapes and sizes, material culture and works of art, the products of science and medicine, and rare documents, postcards, and media.
But focusing on these numbers and their growth, while gratifying and a signal DPLA is thriving, is perhaps less important than what the numbers represent. DPLA has always been a community effort, and that community, which became active in the planning phase to support the idea of a noncommercial effort to bring together American libraries, archives, and museums, and to make their content freely available to the world, has strengthened even more since 2013. A truly national network and digital platform is emerging, although we still have much to do. A strong commitment to providing open access to our shared cultural heritage, and a deeply collaborative spirit, is what drives us every day.
Looking back, 2013 was characterized by a start-up mode: hiring staff, getting the site and infrastructure live, and bringing on a first wave of states and collections. 2014 was a year in which we juggled so much: many new hubs, partners, and content, lining up additional future contributors, and beginning to restructure our technology behind the scenes to prepare for an even more expansive collection and network.
Beginning this year, and with the release of our strategic plan for the next three years, the Digital Public Library of America will hit its stride. We encourage you to read the plan to see what’s in store, but also to know that it will require your help and support; so much in the plan is community-driven, and will be done with that same emphasis on widespread and productive collaboration.
We will be systematically putting in place what will be needed to ensure that there’s an on-ramp to the DPLA for every collection in the United States, in every state. We call this “completing the map,” or making sure that we have a DPLA service hub available to every library, archive, museum, and cultural heritage site that wishes to get their materials online and described in such a way as to be broadly discoverable. We also plan to make special efforts around certain content types—areas where there are gaps in our collection, or where we feel DPLA can make a difference as an agent of discovery and serendipity.
We have already begun to make some major technical improvements that will make ingesting content and managing metadata even better. This initiative will accelerate and be shared with our network. Moreover, we will make a major effort in the coming years to make sure that our valuable unified collection reaches every classroom, civic institution, and audience, to educate, inform, and delight.
There’s a lot to do. We just put a big pot of coffee on. Please join us for this next phase of rapid growth and communal effort!