Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is designed to be a tool for discovery that is commonly called a "union catalog" in professional librarian lingo. As the label suggests, a union catalog describes all public domain and freely accessible digital reserves in the country. Besides library holdings, encompassed reserves include museums, historical archives and cultural heritage institutions.
Founded in 2012 by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with financial backing of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, DPLA has since obtained funding by multiple private foundations and public agencies, including the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Primary founding purpose of America's Latest Digital Public Library
DPLA's primary objective is to unify disparate digital resources such as the Library of Congress, the Internet Archive and various academic collections and any other relevant collection with significant meaning. While holding out realistic promises of high potential, DPLA administrators and contributors have yet to iron a few potentially major wrinkles. A prime example cited is how far back or near forward the comprehensive digital catalog will go or come. Furthermore, disputes over "orphan works" and certain questions pertaining to copyrights remain unresolved of date.
Primary points of DPLA criticism and contentious debate
Widespread criticism and skepticism of DPLA arose during its initial planning phases. All surrounding controversy seemed to revolve around four issues that include: 1) relative vagueness; 2) absent internal coherency; 3) potential redundancy due to overlapping with similar initiatives such as Project Gutenberg; and, 4) potential redirection of financial backing from existing public libraries.
Besides that quartet of heated debate, it has been suggested that digital public libraries are unsuitable for adult literacy programs or promoting cognitive awareness and skills development in young children.
Professional librarians have also expressed fears of reduced funding for their institutions due to DPLA's inception. Such concerns met with a speedy reply from DPLA Steering Committee member Peggy Rudd who pointed out that the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies passed a resolution requesting the DPLA Steering Committee to re-evaluate including the term "Public," due to perceived risk of unintentional consequences that create a ready-made excuse for local governments to reduce public library funding.
Additional DPLA works in progress
During initial planning phases of DPLA, participants established a freely accessible Wiki that outlines "work streams" for 'Audience and Participation,' 'Content and Scope,' 'Financial/Business Models,' 'Governance,' 'Legal Issues,' 'Technical Aspects' and corresponding list serves. A proposed future DPLA project is fashioned after the concept of Scannebago, a mobile scanning device that would traverse the entire U.S. to digitize and curate local historical archive data. Less than two months following its first launch, DPLA coordinators announced a newly formed strategic collaborative partnership with HathiTrust to enable easier accessibility of the latter organization's massive storehouse of digital academic and scholarly research materials.
Final lowdown and last word on DPLA
Although still in relative infancy stages, DPLA clearly portends immensely positive changes on very near future horizons. Nevertheless, like all ingenious predecessor inventions, its true worth will ultimately be dictated by human beings who utilize it for a myriad of practical purposes with potentially far-reaching real-life implications.
For now, DPLA is "the one to watch" by history buffs and bookworms who desperately want to strike pay dirt - before the last shovelful of dirt is thrown in their faces from six feet above ground.