Talking About a Digital Public Library of America

In October 2010, Robert Darnton, the historian and university librarian at Harvard, talked to Wired Campus about the possibility of building what was then being described as a National Digital Library. Since then, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with money from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, has stepped into the role of coordinating plans for what’s now being designated a Digital Public Library of America.

The planning has a public component as well: The Berkman Center has set up a wiki to which anyone can contribute. “We very much hope that this wiki will be the embodiment of a consensus-based and peer-produced approach,” the center notes on the welcome page.

The wiki lays out major topics related to the proposed DPLA project: content and scope (which includes a handy roundup of digitizing projects in the United States and abroad), governance and business models, legal and technical issues. It’s early days, but to get a sense of how the conversation’s shaping up, check out the most active pages on the wiki. (It’s also instructive to poke around the least-revised pages so far.)

You can also join a public e-mail list dedicated to the discussion and run by the Berkman Center. Very recently established, it hasn’t yet moved much beyond the meet-and-greet stage, but it’s already populated with a lot of librarians and others who have front-lines experience with digitizing content. Expect to see some well-informed discussion there and more formal announcements this spring about what happens next at the organizational level.

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