Promising DPLA debut—but please don’t confuse special-collection items, exhibits and APIs with a full-fledged ‘public library’ demo

DPLAA caveat first. The Digital Public Library of America is evolving.

What’s more, I’m a booster of the organization and of the people behind it, including the new executive director, Dan Cohen, who so decently reacted after the Boston Marathon bombings.

But for now, the academic-and-hacker mindset is prevailing at the DPLA over the traditional public library one, judging from the demo’s worthy but rather limited debut today. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But then, why insist on the P word in the organization’s name? Also, the K-12 appeal so far is not quite as great as I’d hoped despite some terrific exceptions. More positively, the DPLA has given us a promising blend of special-collection items, mixed with welcome wrinkles such as ways to narrow a search by a timeline or geography. I’m looking forward to many more items in the same vein, just like those of Europeana, which links to more than 22 million books, films and other digital content at participating libraries. One of my favorite novelists, the not-so-fashionable but (to me) readable Sinclair Lewis, even shows up in the DPLA catalog by way of correspondence with his actress girlfriend.

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