Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update


Since the launch of the DPLA in April 2013, the staff under the direction of its director, Dan Cohen, have been pursuing various projects to determine best ways to develop this resource/tool further and broaden its serviceability. In an April 2015 whitepaper, “Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students” authors Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen set forth one set of plans for making the DPLA valuable in K through 16 settings. The plans resulted from research supported by the Whiting Foundation and yielded a program that enlists the help of educators through another initiative funded by Whiting. The following 15 June 2015 “Call for Educators” on DPLA’s blog describes the kind of partnering with educators that DPLA is seeking to undertake:

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for excellent educators for its new Education Advisory Committee. We recently announced a new grant from the Whiting Foundation that funds the creation of new primary source-based education resources for student use with teacher guidance.

We are currently recruiting a small group of enthusiastic humanities educators in grades 6-14* to collaborate with us on this project. Members of this group will:
•build and review primary source sets (curated collections of primary sources about people, places, events, or ideas) and related teacher guides
•give feedback on the tools students and teachers will use to generate their own sets on DPLA’s website
•help DPLA develop and revise its strategy for education resource development and promotion in 2015-2016

If selected, participants are committing to:
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting on July 29-July, 30 2015 (arriving the night of July 28) in Boston, Massachusetts
•attend three virtual meetings (September 2015, November 2015, and January 2016)
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting in March 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts (dates to be selected in consultation with participants)

Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend for participation as well as full reimbursement for travel costs.

DPLA has also been receiving significant funding from additional sources for other efforts–including funding its “hubs,” both its content ones (“large libraries, museums, archives, or other digital repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA and assist in providing and maintaining metadata for content”) and its service ones (“state, regional, or other collaborations that host, aggregate, or otherwise bring together digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions”). In a big boost to its hub development, the DPLA has recently received $1.9 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and $1.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation); it will use this support to advance their efforts in “connecting online collections from coast to coast by 2017” (“Digital Public Library of America makes push to serve all 50 states by 2017.”)


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4 Responses to “Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update”

  1. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Thanks Eleanor! This whitepaper raises some of the topics we have discussed, such as the need for context to help interpret a set of digitized records. Brick-and-mortar libraries have reference rooms, though these are frequently weaker now than they once were. Without such resources, interpreting primary sources is difficult.

    It was interesting to read that K-12 instructors use a core group of digital resources, and that higher ed. instructors use an idiosyncratic selection of online resources. Would K-12 students also use that same core group? Or would they branch out? Andrew Abbott’s Digital Paper confirms the higher ed. model as the norm for advanced research.

    I would love to see the mock-up set of primary sources that DPLA presented to focus groups.


  2. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna. An academic colleague based in Massachusetts participated in some of the DPLA early meetings once it was established in Boston and Cohen had come on board, so he might have samples or have been exposed to the mock-ups.
    be limited, so in those cases the teacher would be using them as an instructional tool displayed for the class as part of a lesson plan.

    I suspect that there’s more difference among the K-12 instructors depending on the type of school in which they are based but an across-the-board interest in well-supported, contextualized digital resources. In some schools K-12 students may not have access to computers/iPads or access may
    At the SHARP 2015 conference this past week, Bob Darnton gave the closing talk in which he focused on two prime questions–one about the ancien regime book market (though he focused on the STN archives, interestingly he made no mention of The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, 1769-1794 database that EMOB first discussed in 2010 in this post) and the other about the concept of what he deemed the pyramidal e-book. Relevant to this post are his remarks about the e-book. Quite interesting were the ways in which his sample of such a book resembled–at least on the surface–the curated sites being created for the DPLA. Specifically, see his A Literary Tour de France. I was a bit surprised by this similarity because I remembered that Darnton had originally indicated his plans for a multimodal format for his Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010). In the end, however, the work was issued as a fairly standard monograph–albeit with a wonderful supplement, an Electronic Cabaret: Paris Street Songs, 1748-1750, Performed by Hélène Delavault and Claude Pavy where one can hear the songs he discusses being sung.


  3. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Can you say more about Darnton’s concept of the pyramidal e-book?


  4. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    He did not gloss explicitly, but what became clear from his remarks and examples he offered that he was referring to an architectural structure that provided more detail/specifics about a topic at various levels through links. His A Literary Tour de France is evidently the e-book.


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