Wrapping up 2023, and a look ahead

By John Bracken, December 15, 2023.

Dear Friends of DPLA, 

When the conversations that resulted in the birth of the Digital Public Library of America in 2010 began, it was with the belief that everyone should have access to knowledge and that the transition to digital should expand, not limit, that access. More than 10 years later, these principles are still guiding our work, despite the big shifts we’ve witnessed in our field and across our nation.

In January, we announced that new funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation would allow us to substantially expand our work to increase the visibility and use of our partners’ collections through Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. To date, we have made more than 3.8 million images available on Wikimedia Commons. These images have received more than 300 million views on Wikipedia for 300 participating organizations. With the partnership of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sloan Foundation, and libraries and museums across the country, we continue to expand this program and with it, the reach and impact of our partners’ collections. 

Like many of you, we’ve watched with alarm the growing effort to challenge and ban books, particularly those by and about Black, Brown, and Queer voices and experiences, in libraries across the country. To help counter this push, in July, we launched The Banned Book Club with our partners at The Palace Project and Lyrasis (with help from President Obama). The Banned Book Club provides free access to banned books via the Palace ereader app to everyone living in communities where books have been banned. In October, we partnered with the University of Chicago Library to expand this effort and increase the number of ebooks available.  We hope you will continue to share information about The Banned Book Club (as well as the like-minded Books Unbanned from Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library) with your friends and colleagues in areas where books are being banned to help us ensure no American is denied access to what they want to read. 

Over the course of 2023, we have also made strides in other areas of our ebook work. Thanks to the work of the DPLA Curation Corps, we have grown the number of titles available in Palace Bookshelf, the largest curated collection of open access ebooks in the world, to more than 20,000. We also have added more than 200,000 self-published titles to Palace Marketplace, bringing the total number of ebooks and audiobooks available to more than 1.2 million from all of the “Big 5” publishers, hundreds of mid-sized and independent publishers, and independent authors. We continue to be the exclusive provider of Amazon Publishing and Audible titles to libraries. We have also, through the Collaborating for Access webinar series, worked with our partners at COSLA and ReadersFirst to bring librarians, publishers, and authors together to share ideas that benefit the greater good. 

Earlier this month, my DPLA colleagues shared updates from their work this fall: Dominic Byrd-McDevitt on our cultural heritage work and Micah May on our work to develop a digital content ownership model for libraries. We are looking forward to 2024, and continuing our strategic visioning process, with the goal of better aligning our work with the needs and challenges of the next 10 years and beyond. I look forward to sharing more about all of this in the new year.  

As always, I send my thanks to the DPLA team, our funders, and our many talented and passionate partners who make our work possible. On behalf of all of us at DPLA, thank you for all you do to ensure access to knowledge, and happy holidays. 

John S. Bracken

Executive Director

Digital Public Library of America