DPLAfest Then and Now – Highlights to Celebrate

DPLAfest 2015 in Indianapolis

DPLAfest 2015 in Indianapolis

This post was written by Mohamed Berray, Resident Social Sciences Librarian (2013-2015), who attended both DPLAfest 2013 and DPLAfest 2015.

In October 2013, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brought together 450 technologists, publishers, developers, librarians, museum professionals, and archivists for its first-ever DPLAfest to celebrate the successful launch of DPLA early in April that year.

The two-day event, which started with an evening reception at the Boston Public Library, followed by a full day of workshops, discussions and hands-on activities at Northeastern University and Simmons College, commemorated the growth of DPLA collections from 2.4million in April 2013, to 5million in October 2013. Three new service hubs – The Empire State Digital Network (NY), The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (NC), and The Portal to Texas History (TX) were also unveiled during the event. Among its significant achievements, DPLA announced a $990,195 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the capacity of public library staff to acquire, use, and sustain new digital skills using DPLA’s open materials and services. The rapid growth of DPLA also meant that contributing organizations will have to address copyrights issues that limit online access to their digitized collections. A suggested plan was put in place to collaborate with Europeana to develop a toolkit of rights statements that will enhance content usability at an international level.

In April 2015, on the second anniversary of its launch, DPLA again brought together members of its growing community for DPLAfest in Indianapolis. To the thrill of all attendees, DPLA announced that its collections had quadrupled to more than 10 million items from 1600 contributing institutions. The number of service hubs also increased to 15, covering 19 states. A new grant from the Alfred Sloan Foundation to help DPLA identify avenues for participation in providing access to e-books was announced. And, in a related development, DPLA and HathiTrust announced that they will implement a $1 million grant from NEH and the Mellon Foundation to provide access to out-of-print books using CC license. Books will be “freely downloadable with searchable texts in formats that are compatible with any e-reading device”. See the NEH Open Book Initiative announcement earlier this year, here. In April, President Obama announced a new partnership with DPLA to establish an Open EBook initiative that will provide children from across the United States with access to ebooks. This will allow DPLA to build the “DPLA Youth” collection or DPLAY, through collaborations with the New York Public Library, First Book, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Picking up from where they left two years ago, DPLA announced the successful completion of the Public Library Partnership Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Documented best practices from DPLA Hubs (Digital CommonwealthDigital Library of GeorgiaMinnesota Digital Library, and Mountain West Digital Library) were used to develop digital skills training for librarians in public libraries with special collections, but do not have the resources to help them share their content. DPLA and Europeana also announced their partnership to develop standardized international rights statements to communicate the copyrights status of cultural objects published via their platforms. Together, DPLA and Europeana will propose twelve rights statements that will represent common standards that need to be met in sharing accurate information about copyright status with users.

Currently, Penn State is working as part of a vibrant team of librarians to establish a Pennsylvania service hub for DPLA. This hub will support a state-wide infrastructure to make digital collections held by Pennsylvania libraries, museums, and related cultural organizations widely and freely available via the web. The project is still in its early stages, but thus far it has surveyed PA institutions about their digital collections and prototyped a metadata aggregator for harvesting PA digital collection metadata to push out to the DPLA. More about the Pennsylvania effort to organize a service hub may be found here.

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