DPLA thoughts

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…


3 responses to “DPLA thoughts

  1. I really have to agree with you that the issue of access is the more important issue. Even if the public library was to be the access point to the DPLA for those without internet access, what about rural areas, where even the libraries lack quality internet connectivity. Overall, DPLA is really something that needs to be developed in the US but we can not forget about the people without internet access, who are missing out on the vast information found on the internet.

  2. Very good points. Ideally the public libraries around the country would indeed serve, in part, as access points to a strong DPLA for those who do not have internet access privately. I also think it’s worth pushing for more universally-available internet access in general.

    And, on the other hand, it also makes me a little uneasy to think of public libraries actually discouraging a large, exciting, idealistic, potentially-competing-with-Google project like the DPLA because of fear it will eat into their own funding. Public libraries need to be able to exist as strong, valuable institutions regardless of what digital resources are developed online. It seems dangerous for them to focus too much on trying to control what goes online and, perhaps, even what it is called.

  3. It is both surprising and unsurprising to me that the U.S. is behind in terms of creating a vast digital library of content. I wonder if it’s a question of the way copyright is here versus other countries, and the potential impact that may have on project of this scale.
    As we have often seen, when it comes to the discussion of digital materials the ability to access them is always a part of it. You can have have all the material in the world but if people can’t access it what good is it? Various tech blogs that I follow have been discussing and promoting the idea of “Open WiFi” which would help provide more access to people. As connections get stronger this becomes more and more of a possibility; though there are people who have been leaving it open for years (http://boingboing.net/2008/01/10/why-its-good-to-leav.html). With more and more places offering free WiFi access it’s becoming more and more possible like the Digital Public Library.

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