There is no doubt that the DPLA is an exciting prospect in the world of digital libraries. It is a little frustrating that the United States finds itself so far behind other world countries’ comprehensive digital library projects, but the fact that progress is being made in a relatively short amount of time is heartening. In addition, I believe comparing the project to others like Europeana is a little unfair/irrelevant, since the mission and funding of similar projects are so different than the DPLA.
To me, the most important issue here is that of access. According to Trend Data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 66% of American adults (18+) in the US had home broadband access as of April 2012. This means there are approximately seventy-eight million adults in the US without home broadband access. As a result, I find that although the DPLA is an admirable (and absolutely necessary) project in the increasingly digital 21st century, the limitations of Internet access are a serious concern. I tend to wonder how useful this project will be for the entire country when so many citizens lack access to the Internet in the first place.
Somewhat related to this idea, I think the controversy over the term “public” being used in the DPLA initiative is interesting and definitely needs to be addressed in regard to the concerns of public library funding throughout the country. It is no secret that many public libraries operate on continually diminished budgets each year. Therefore, the idea that they are sensitive to the planning of a large, freely accessible digital resource that has the potential to further threaten their existence is understandable. Perhaps libraries will become the link to the DPLA for the 34% of users in the US who lack Internet access at home and wish to utilize the infinite resources the DPLA aims to provide. My hope is that, in the future, public libraries will be seen as the point of access for this and other digital library projects, and will therefore retain vital funding. I believe it would ultimately be in the DPLA’s best interest to foster a meaningful relationship of reciprocity between itself and public libraries around the country.
The issue of branding also brings to mind the Little Free Library project, though clearly on a different level. Although I think the project itself is wonderful in its mission, I have struggled over its name – Little FREE Library. By using the word “free” in its name, it then implies that public libraries are not. Am I just a sensitive library school graduate student, or have others noticed this as well? Just curious…