The Digital Public Library of America is soon to open its doors. From the New York Review of Books:
The National Digital Public Library Is Launched!
Brief excerpts from the lengthy article:
The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched on April 18, is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge.
The DPLA will be a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web. To make it work, we must think big and begin small. At first, the DPLA’s offering will be limited to a rich variety of collections—books, manuscripts, and works of art—that have already been digitized in cultural institutions throughout the country. Around this core it will grow, gradually accumulating material of all kinds until it will function as a national digital library.
The trajectory of its development can be understood from the history of its origin—and it does have a history, although it is not yet three years old. It germinated from a conference held at Harvard on October 1, 2010, a small affair involving forty persons, most of them heads of foundations and libraries. In a letter of invitation, I included a one-page memo about the basic idea: “to make the bulk of world literature available to all citizens free of charge” by creating “a grand coalition of foundations and research libraries.” In retrospect, that sounds suspiciously utopian, but everyone at the meeting agreed that the job was worth doing and that we could get it done.
We also agreed on a short description of it, which by now has become a mission statement. The DPLA, we resolved, would be “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations.”
Basically, the DPLA will be a central database that links to the e-collections of libraries all around the country (and eventually the world). It will be limited, of course, to out-of-copyright works, or works for whom authors and/or publishers have given permission for their inclusion. But I think this is a BIG step forward (avoiding the commercial issues of Google's efforts) that will one day see a much freer access to a HUGE block of information that was unimaginable a couple of decades ago.
The DPLA's (preliminary, until April 18th) web site is a VERY short URL: