As most steering committee members of DPLA might have already acknowledged, the biggest obstacle is legal issues about copyrights. Instead of directly challenging or dealing with legal systems, in the first phase it could be more effective for DPLA to operate as a central metadata repository with links to other hubs or individual libraries. Such an idea is copied from the hierarchy of telephone switches. Each large-scale telecommunication company has its own layers of networks. Each phone call is originated at the lowest layer, this is, the route from household to local office. The call is then propagated to upper layers for searching the path to the destination. Similarly we can build a network of public libraries. DPLA can play the role of national backbone in this network at the highest level with the heaviest “bandwidth.” Each local library can hook up to this network either directly to this backbone or indirectly via its local hub. DPLA can publish API for local libraries to discover, search, and access to its metadata repository including hyperlinks.
In the second phase, when legal issues are resolved to a satisfactory level either with new laws or agreements with copyright holders, DPLA can start the digitization works. Even so, I do not suggest DPLA to implement a front end for users to directly access its digital contents. Instead, DPLA should still play the role of a “faceless” national backbone. Each local library acts autonomously with its own policies and access mechanisms. A side benefit is DPLA can minimize the concern over branding issues. It can thus avoid much of the politics.