Annie Johnson (Lehigh University)
The Digital Public Library of America is a unique content portal designed for students, teachers, scholars, and the public. It provides free access to a wide variety of digital materials from a national network of libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage institutions. The idea behind the project is simple: although many institutions have digitized their materials, these collections often exist in silos, making them difficult to find and use. The DPLA helps to bring a diverse group of collections together by aggregating millions of metadata records.
The DPLA can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways. It’s a great tool for teaching students how to undertake original research. Students can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, visual bookshelf, format, or topic. After creating an account, they can save items to customized lists and even share their lists, making it easy to collaborate with classmates. But that’s not all. The DPLA is also a powerful platform with an open API. This means that students and faculty can hack into an incredible treasure trove of cultural heritage records, and build entirely new tools and applications.
Free access to materials through public libraries has long been an important part of American life. In the face of increasingly restrictive digital options, the DPLA seeks to multiply openly accessible materials and strengthen the public option that libraries represent in their communities.