A digital collection of materials accessible to all far and wide. As many of us have been saying this idea is hardly far-fetched and quickly becoming more and more possible; though as with any large project there will always be bumps and roadblocks, those who question whether this is worth it/possible/sustainable/redundant. For all the questions this ambitious project is drawing up I find myself questioning whether they are actual questions or excuses and escape hatches. Let’s discuss.
Scope, I find it interesting that in one breath there is a question of being too academic while in another the branding of the library as “public” is being discussed. I think that public is the right word to use because it is one that people recognize and understand. If you call it just a library or just a collection how are people supposed to know that they are allowed to browse and use its resources? Though there are many private institutions involved with the project the goal is to reach “everyone” and therefore we need to everyone and their +1s. Calling it a public library tells people that this is an open library to be used.
Funding is another question that I don’t think will ever not be asked, and is a legitimate one as well. Libraries are constantly under threat due to ever tightening/shrinking budgets because of the difficult financial times we live in. Which is another reason to support the DPLA project. One of the areas that is constantly slashed in budget cuts is collections meaning fewer materials for patrons to check out and fewer copies of titles available when needed. What if all those things were available through a source that was faster than interlibrary loaning the title from somewhere else? The DPLA project would provide ways to fill-in collections that previously would have been almost impossible for smaller libraries.
Branding the DPLA as a public I have already addressed; while I understand the hesitation of some to include the word public I think it important that it does. Do I think this makes the DPLA a threat to public libraries, no. It would be like saying the Library of Congress is a threat to my local library. Speaking in the realm of possibilities it is possible that one day the DPLA could replace libraries but at this time I see it as unlikely. Though it has been in development since 2010, it is still in its infancy and won’t even launch until April; so I feel the threat to libraries is premature. So is the DPLA redundant? I don’t think so. It is different from the Google Books Project, which has faced some problems and a very public lawsuit, and Hathi Trust, which has a different approach. Each group is doing something similar but that is unique from the others and is therefore not a threat to one another.
I could be turn out to be drastically wrong but only time will tell.