Digital Public Library of America – Not Just for Public Libraries

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a project which hopes to enhance existing services of all libraries by providing single source access to materials.  What types of materials? The digitized collections many of us already have  . . . at least to start.  Although many libraries have created searchable databases of digitized materials from multiple libraries, this project goes a step further, hoping to include all digitized collections that can be harvested using the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). Imagine being able to search not only local databases, but also the collections at the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress – and this is only the first step.

In addition to providing an integrated search, there will be tools to help you integrate, use, and adapt the collections for your own use. By providing APIs and toolkits (technical processes that help you work with data in the collections), you could create a web page of all the materials about President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ); or a link on your page that will display all photos of LBJ between the years  of 1950 and 1964; or create a public interface for your teens that is different from the one for your genealogy patrons. No technical expertise necessary. The DPLA will be looking for ways to provide these types of services for libraries at little or no cost.

Although the name of this project includes the phrase “public library,” it is important to realize that this is not meant to be just another public library or even a replacement for public libraries. Rather, the founders see this project as benefiting the public, thereby using the term “public library” in a slightly different fashion than we’re used to. By benefiting the public, librarians in all types of libraries have a stake in working with and furthering this project.

If you are interesting helping – or just in keeping up – they have mailing lists, wikis, and blogs that detail their work. It’s a very open process and your thoughts and ideas would be very welcome.

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