A National Public Library, Now Available Online

The Digital Public Library of America launched last week with an ambitious goal: To provide online access to content from as many libraries' archives as possible for free.

What's the Latest Development?

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) launched its Web site last week, more than two years after the first planning meeting in which, according to a statement on the site, participants agreed to create "an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage...in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future generations." Visitors can access more than two million items from a wide range of institutions, including Harvard University and public libraries in Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston. Developers can also add to the archive by using a freely available API.

What's the Big Idea?

The library is by no means complete, and there are still multiple hurdles to clear in order to create a truly inclusive and useful archive, which means the project "[is] going to be a multi-decade effort," says DPLA executive director Dan Cohen. For example, only seven out of 42 state and regional libraries with fully- or partially-digitized archives are represented on the site; Cohen is working to get the other 35 on board. Also needed will be the cooperation of publishers who own current copyrights. So far, though, the DPLA seems to be off to a good start, with favorable reviews from both users and developers.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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