While it may seem redundant to post this amidst the flurry of activity on Twitter (follow hashtag #dpla) and in other media, I’d like to let PLA blog readers know that the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) site is now live. It’s an exciting step forward for an ambitious initiative which holds a lot of promise for public library patrons during our changing times. As a convening member of the audience and participation workstream and as a true enthusiast and supporter of this project, I’ll be posting updates and thoughts from time to time on the PLA Blog encouraging public libraries and librarians to join the conversation and to help make the DPLA something useful, inspiring, and valuable for their communities.
I believe that the first iteration of the DPLA will be an intentional, measured venture into creating a semantic web for all things ‘cultural heritage’, and that it’s underlying structure and standards are going to let libraries, museums, and archives put their metadata and assets on the web in such a way that fabulous new discovery, social, and remixing tools (and the developers who build such tools) will have access to them. What does that mean? That means it’ll be much easier for professionals or even hobbyists to build interfaces and curate collections like Old SF, an amazing local history site built from resources at the San Francisco Public Library. It means that projects like LibraryCloud can ingest your data and make it available through the fascinating social discovery interface called ShelfLife. It means that you can use slick and powerful curatorial tools like extraMUROS to do even simple things, like building slideshows of library and web content for an iPad on the fly. It means a lot of different things, but something that I know will resonate in the under-resourced public libraries that haven’t been able to invest in a lot of in-house tech staff: it means the technically inclined individuals in your community will be able to leverage their own skills to make the library better. And when they make their library better, they make their community better.
That’s a powerful concept. Public libraries empower their users by providing access to knowledge, traditionally for consumption. The DPLA will make our cultural heritage available not to consume, but to parse, sort, analyze, visualize, remix, and redisplay. Perhaps the next iteration of the DPLA might be supporting knowledge production and content creation, but there’s an awful lot of work to do first. First we need a framework and a few ground rules. Here we go….