Friday, March 4, 2016

The Digital Public Library of America (Internship Week 8)

Building off of last week’s blog post, I wanted to continue to share about topics that I plan to include in my final paper. Last week we looked at history harvests and this week I’d like to look at the Digital Public Library of America.

But first – quick update on my scrapbooks.  I started scanning my scrapbook this week! While the scanning itself was boring, it was exciting to see my project start to come full circle.

When Dr. French first told me about the Digital Public Library of America, I asked him if this was a real project or a project in the making. He told me it was definitely a real project and to check it out for myself. So, I did! And let me tell you, it is quite the project.

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA for short) is an online library that seeks to digitally bring together “America’s archives, libraries, and museums” and make them available to the public ( The DPLA is led by Executive Director Dan Cohen, a staff team of approximately ten people, and a Board of Directors. The idea for a national digitized library has been around since the 1990s. According to the DPLA, “Efforts led by a range of organizations, including the Library of Congress, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive, have successfully built resources that provide books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with Internet access” ( Yet, where many of these materials exist independently attached to universities or libraries, the DPLA purposes to bring “these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage” (

But how did the DPLA get started? Well, in 2010 leading scholars in fields of preservation, technology, law, and education gathered together to discuss the potential of an online digital library. After this meeting, beginning in 2011 this group of scholars embarked on a two-year journey, during which time they “brought together hundreds of public and research librarians, innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers,” and ultimately founded the DPLA ( Then, following the DPLA’s launch in April 2013, the DPLA staff constructed the organization’s “strategic plan” for 2015-2017. Outlining its top priorities, the DPLA’s strategic plan explains that the organization’s top priorities include “completing its hub network, fully building its technology platform, and pursuing an outreach plan to the public (DPLA Strategic Plan). These three priorities are important being that the DPLA’s hub network is responsible for digitizing items, the technology platform is responsible for hosting the digital items, and the outreach plan is responsible for connecting with the community to collect items.

So, while you might be thinking, what makes a digital library so great when I can already use googlebooks or kindle? Well, the DPLA is unique in that it not only digitizes books, but it also hosts collections of everything from photographs, to post cards, to journals and diaries, to hand written letters, to video clips, and more. Perhaps the most interesting item I have discovered thus far is the digitized image of Helen Keller’s bathing suit!

Stay tuned my next blog post for even more details on the DPLA!

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