As anyone who has visited the DPLA site can attest, it is pretty cool. You can explore over 5 million items from libraries, museums, and archives ranging in topic from art to history to sports, and ranging in scope from small-town historical society to the Smithsonian—all on one site. This ambitious organization of information sources leaves you thinking: this is how it should be.
As information professionals, we are also left thinking: how did they do that? Two articles in our reading for this week from Library Journal and the Chronicle give a behind-the-scenes (or under-the-hood, as Dr. MacCall likes to say) look at the functionality of the DPLA.
How Does It Work?
The DPLA achieves the goal of interoperability by aggregating metadata into central service hubs where it is normalized, and by using existing content hubs such as the National Archives, ARTstor, and HathiTrust. This is metadata harvesting as described in previous post. The DPLA acts as a connector, a super aggregater, rather than as a preserver of information sources. It harvests the metadata found in existing institutions and digital libraries, standardizes the metadata for interoperability, and provides links to original content. This “massaging” or normalizing of the metadata not only helps searchers find resources, but also enables creative displays on the DPLA site using content connections such as geography or timeline.
The DPLA also allows user input. You can digitize content at a local institution, then with an app, make these resources available through the DPLA.
Library Journal, “What is the DPLA?” by John Palfrey
The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Digital Public Library of America: Young but Well Connected,” by Jennifer Howard