Response to DPLA Discussion Questions (pt. 1)

In a project as large and ambitious as the DPLA, funding will always be a concern.  Content will continuously need to be added, maintained and preserved and staff will be needed to carry out the technical, administrative and legal tasks critical to its operation. Not only does a project of this magnitude demand fiscal responsibility, it requires flexibility in its operation and business model.

While the DPLA is currently operating on grant money, the organization is planning to explore a variety of funding models, as evidenced in the Financial/Business Models Workstream on the DPLA Web site: “Any effort to greatly increase the scope of public access to digital resources will require partnerships among many entities, public and private, including government institutions, foundations, libraries (public, academic, and special-purpose), and publishers, both for-profit and non-profit…Philanthropy will be a good starting point, but the effort must have a business model and a means of drawing on core funding from libraries and governments in order to get to scale. New models for working with publishers will be a component of this project” (dp.la/workstreams/finance/).

I commend the DPLA for its openness to multiple funding sources, flexible business plans and willingness to work with publishers to develop business models that are beneficial to both the DPLA and the bottom line. What remains to be seen, however, is how this will all pan out. The very phrase “drawing on core funding from libraries and governments” quoted from above brings up a red flag for me. In the current economic climate, libraries of all types are fighting for their own funding. It is almost unimaginable to think they would be able to provide any type of financial support for the DPLA.

Still, like my classmate Tammy, I love the idea of the DPLA. The DPLA seeks to continue the library profession’s goal of access to information for all and “meets the needs of the twenty-first century,” (Darnton, 2010).

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2 responses to “Response to DPLA Discussion Questions (pt. 1)

  1. Great observations drummergirl40. Thanks for including the content from the DPLA’s workstream. I concur with you “red flag” surrounding the proposal that in these economic times, other libraries and government entities will have funds to share. While it is commendable that the DPLA has placed a fair amount of thought into a diversified approach to funding, it is possible to raise real concerns about the likelihood of their proposals materializing. Thanks for the post.

  2. I can’t help but feel a little bit more optimistic than some of you about the potential for grants from entities like the Sloan Foundation continuing to play a big part. The fact that the DPLA was able to attract a $5 million grant in 2011 before it really had much to show for itself other than a vision and some very well-respected backers seems to imply that some more big grants could be attainable.

    And isn’t a digital library the type of project that can work with lump-sum funding a little better than a traditional library that needs steady operating expenses covered to do its work? Of course there is a need for upkeep and steady, devoted leadership but if done correctly at least the digitization of materials can be a one-time cost as could be the initial development of the inner-workings of the website’s metadata and search functionality. A digital collection of wax-cylinder recordings I visit frequently (http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/) has survived off a few big grants and gifts.

    Not ideal, but in the economy and anti-government-programs climate we live in, it can be a reasonable alternative to solid government support.

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