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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Digital Public Library of America

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 13, 2015

Last week, I attended a Workshop at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus regarding the “Digital Public Library of America” and its plan to expand and connect to Ohio’s digital library collections.


It was an interesting day, and provided a look at the current status of the Project, and a glimpse of what the future will bring to this mode of information.


Several organizations led the way to digitizing documents in the 1990s including the Library of Congress, Internet Archive, and the Hathi Trust; but it was 2010 before an organized process was put forth to link these together.


An open network was proposed by several libraries, foundations, and technology projects at a meeting in Cambridge, Mass. which evolved into the Digital Public Library of America.


Initially funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and operated as part of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the Digital Public Library emerged in 2013 with links to 2 million items across America.


Today, it is based in the historic Boston Public Library, with staff located all around America.


The DPLA is a free, open-source resource that makes digital collections and archives across the country available in one place.


It partners with the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and New York Public Library to name only a few of the participating institutions.


In 2016, DPLA will expand to Ohio and begin linking to various academic libraries and Cleveland Public Library, the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, and Columbus Metropolitan Library to again, name only a few.


On yes, did I mention the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County?  Yes, we are the owner of the Digital Shoebox Project, which contains over 85,000 items of local and regional history that has been digitized over the past dozen years.


This year, we have moved Digital Shoebox to a new software platform, and moved the physical file system to OCLC, Inc. in Columbus to allow a major expansion of the Project.


Seven other public libraries in SE Ohio share in the Digital Shoebox, and everyone will be expanding the offerings in the system.


In order to be an early participant in DPLA, the digitized systems must operate on appropriate software that uses specific cataloging metadata and I am pleased to report that our system has the correct technology to allow a linkage.


Our Digital Shoebox Project will need to be edited so the data is all in the correct format to allow linkage, and someone with experience and training in MARC cataloging and old-fashioned cataloging data entry would be perfect for that job.


Of course, our local group, upon hearing that description, all looked at me as our “old cataloger” so I plan to update and correct five records per day until they are done.


Today the editing is done on a computer online, but it uses the same skill-set that I learned in 1976 on a manual Royal typewriter at Case Western Reserve University.


One seminar of the Workshop related to copyright issues with digital information, perhaps the most complex part of the day.


Anything produced before 1924 is generally free from copyright issues, or anything produced by federal, state, or local governments falls under different provisions of copyright.


Anything produced before 1977 also falls under the older copyright provisions.


Section 108 of the Copyright Act provides exemptions for libraries and archives regarding reproductions made for collections without obtaining permissions from the holder of the copyright.


Watch for more improvements and upgrades to the Digital Shoebox Project as we move forward.