Press: “Digital Public Library of America: Young but Well Connected”

Posted by DPLA in December 9, 2013.

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On December 9, the DPLA was featured in the Technology section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article — “Digital Public Library of America: Young but Well Connected” by Jennifer Howard — provides an excellent insight into our Digital Hubs program and its positive effect on local institutions. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

The early signs are promising. After only seven months, the Digital Public Library of America, or DPLA, serves as the central link in an expanding network of cultural institutions that want to make their holdings more visible to the public. It has attracted financial support from foundations and government agencies, among them the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and, mostly recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And it’s begun to attract not only users in search of far-flung information but also developers who want to build new tools and applications on its open-source platform.

Relying on many partner institutions, the library shuns what Dan Cohen, its executive director, calls an ‘imperial’ model. It’s not meant to be a virtual equivalent of, say, the Library of Congress, a central storehouse for collections of images and texts. It’s not in the business of preservation. Instead the new digital library acts as a connector or superaggregator. It takes in millions of records of items held by libraries, museums, historical societies, and other cultural institutions across the country—more than 1,100 so far. Then it standardizes­ the records’ metadata and uses it to point searchers toward items relevant to their interests.

To do all that, the digital library relies on a system of “service hubs” that feed it records from smaller entities in their parts of the country. In turn, the DPLA leads patrons back to individual collections, wherever they are. Mr. Cohen likens the system to an ecosystem in which water flows from pond to stream to ocean in a continuing cycle.

About 160 institutions, including the historical society, belong to the Minnesota Digital Library, according to John T. Butler, associate university librarian for data and technology at the University of Minnesota Libraries. (The university administers the state digital library; the state supports it financially.)

DPLA brings those local and regional institutions “onto the national stage,” Mr. Butler says. The Minnesota Digital Library has seen a 55-percent increase in traffic to its repository site since April 2013. “That’s a powerful incentive” to participate, he says. “This is becoming something that you really want to be part of.”

Read the entire article here.