“Imagine a digital space that would provide access both to diverse materials – books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, images, audiovisual materials – currently available in digital format but in disparate, sometimes gated silos, and to materials that to date have not been incorporated into the digital realm. And imagine these millions of items freely available to all. Such is the vision of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), as presented by John Palfrey, chair of the DPLA Steering Committee and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, at the 2012 Fredric M. Miller Memorial Lecture on May 8 at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A program of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, the annual Miller lecture honors the vision and legacy of archivist, historian, and author Fredric M. Miller (1945 – 1998). This year’s lecture was organized in cooperation with the Delaware Valley Archivists Group and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
“Recognizing the not inconsiderable problems that have prevented previous efforts from ‘quite getting off the ground, Palfrey said the DPLA was confronted with two choices: ’keep planning or get started.’ That they opted to do both–’figure it out and get started’–speaks to the sense of mission driving the project. Accordingly, since the initial meeting in 2010, the DPLA has developed a planning process that resembles a design charrette. Interested parties are convening in a variety of forums to ‘think from the ground up’ about the digital architecture that can best realize the vision driving the DPLA. Decision-making is distributed across several bodies; there is no central, curatorial body. The entire process is informed by an expanding community of more than one thousand stakeholders, including public and academic librarians, cultural, educational, government, and foundation leaders, and experts in technology, publishing, and law; or as Palfrey put it, ‘a group of people, almost all volunteers, who are devoted to building something that’s a knowledge institution and is figuring out how we come together to create the greatest public library we can for America.’”
“The DPLA is envisioned primarily as an open distributed network of comprehensive online resources. It is thus seeking a mid-ground between two poles: ‘a project that aggregates metadata and then points people to different destinations and a project that creates one big mass of material in one single, highly centralized place.’ Programmers are developing an open source code – a code anyone can use – that will allow anyone with digital assets to make them available. The code will also be used by the DPLA for its own digital projects. Anyone with access to a computer will thus be able to access materials either through individual repositories or directly through the DPLA. Palfrey estimated that most searches – perhaps 80 percent – will go to a site that will get to material that has curated by, for example, a local library or archives. The remaining 20 percent will go to material developed directly by the DPLA. Just how DPLA will handle material that has already been digitized, given that metadata are often inaccessible, incompatible, or incongruent, has not been resolved. Palfrey noted that addressing this will require ‘making metadata open access’ and emphasized the DPLA’s ‘commitment to drive forward the movement towards open metadata.’”
From Linda Shopes’ article on the MARCH’s CrossTies Newsletter, Digital Public Library of America Featured At 2012 Miller Memorial Lecture