Digital Public Library of America – dream big

One of the sad side effects of the interesting evolution of the Google Books/Google Editions product is how many people have been saying “Libraries should have done this. This should be our territory.” While there are some great library-like digital content sites such as Open Library they’re often more concerned with curation than content creation. And we have a lot of content that needs to go digital. But who has time and who has resources?

This week the Berkman Center announced a Digital Public Library Planning Initiative, bringing together a diverse group of librarians and free culture advocates to make a plan for a Digital Public Library of America. Exciting ideas brought to the table by people I trust, about things I care about. It’s a grat time to be a librarian.

5 thoughts on “Digital Public Library of America – dream big

  1. I’m tentatively excited about this also, and really confused as to two points:

    1. What is the goal? – “to fulfill the vision of an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that draws on the nation’s living heritage to educate, inform and empower everyone in this and future generations” – um, what? You imply they’re talking about a public domain/public sector alternative to Google Books – this is a great idea but I don’t actually see Berkman mentioning this, only “planning”. My nightmare is an IPL/American Memory mashup of stuff we already have in yet another place we have to remember to look for it.

    2. What do they mean by “public library”? There doesn’t seem to be anyone with a public library background on the steering committee, though they say they’ll talk to us. Are they going to create something online that reflects the values and expands/protects the functions of public libraries, or are they just appropriating the term for their own ends?

  2. All good questions, ths is clearly just the buzz to get people talking and I don’t know more than I’ve read online. I think with Brewster and Carl behind it there is listerally no chance that they’ll just build some annoying fee based nonsense that has horrible UI and bothers us. In *my* dream world they’d be building a sexy front end to the mountains of content that are already freely available and buried behind terrible search interfaces [you can’t search for a bound phrase in American Memory, it’s complete sacrilege] with helpful help tools and the ability for people to curate their own and others’ content.

    I honestly think they don’t have a plan, they have an idea, but I trust them more than most of the other usual suspects and I see a healthy absence of the vendor class on their steering committee.

  3. This sounds like it has great potential and I hope to hear about it as it moves forward in the creation process. How are they determining who can be a part of this??

  4. Funny, a group of folks from Libraryland have slowly but surely been working on a project like this from a grassroots perspective for the last couple of years…and we are just about to launch stage one of our “real” web site on Dec 31st at

    Over the course of te first half 2011 we’ll be adding more features, research, ways to get involved and add your voice…all towards the goal of ensuring people can get electronic content from libraries as well (better actually) as they can get books, CD’s DVD’s, journals (you know, content with a physical container by and large) now.

    PS- We’ve contacted folks attached to this and have yet to hear anything substantive back from them in response. Would love to engage with them and believe we can help add value if they are interested!

    If anybody has any question you can drop us a line at any time.

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