I recently read about digital initiative called the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) that apparently launched in April of 2013. The DPLA is an attempt to bring together some of the vast digital resources that already exist. It seeks to open access to information. It is a new attempt on what, at least to me, is an old concept. The Internet Public Library, GoogleBooks, Project Guttenburg and The Internet Archive all have similar missions, albeit with slightly different ways of doing things. The DPLA has the backing and/or funding from some major players in the library world: IMLS, NEH, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The DPLA will use existing state and regional digital libraries, along with major research and cultural institutions, to provide one single access point. According to the DPLA, it is not a search engine, but a portal to these various and diverse collections. Sounds ok to me. Some of the more recognizable hubs and partners include the National Archives, Smithsonian, NYPL, and HathiTrust.
It is not without its critics. There are still issues of content and copyright and of duplication of resources with some of its similar projects. Yet, the DPLA is worth a look, if nothing else. On a practical level it will not include James Patterson or Danielle Steele, so to a great deal of people it instantly has no interest. But for those interested in easier access to information that is available, Much of what is there is in the public domain, but with around 5 million records there is something for everyone.
DPLA will never be able to reach ever library and cultural institutions digital resources. On some level we will always have to look for some information under every rock and in every nook and cranny. It’s a start. I am cautiously optimistic.
Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager