Friday, October 25, 2013

Metadata for #Good - the Digital Public Library of America

Libraries are core institutions of communities, of societies, of democracies. I had the great pleasure of spending the last two days at a festival hosted by the Digital Public Library of America ( - one of the many efforts that I see as being at the very heart of digital civil society.

What is There's an official mission statement - written 3 years ago by 40 people and still going strong today. Here's some of what I'm thinking as I wait to go home:
  • It's a portal, a platform and principle - 
  • It's a set of community tools for making library and curated community content (Americana) from across the country findable and visible, for free, everywhere, by anyone.  
  • It's civil society designed from the data up. And it's all about the people.
  • It's a way for people to build tools that matter to them
  • It's metadata used for good
  • It's a constantly evolving experiment (I learned that some schools can't access because its weird URL is blocked by IT filters. Even techies make mistakes!)
  • It's a policy advocate - see the proposal to the FCC about e-rates
  • It could feed an app that could help me find the scholars doing work that interests me
  • It could feed an app that would help all of us improve our searching capacities by learning to "think like a reference librarian" - or search laterally, as I heard today
  • It's a force for democracy and justice
  • It's a force for open access and fair use - and librarians have a great sense of humor. One proposal I heard was to create "fair use zones" - #FUZones - on the #internet to complement "Aaron Swartz Reading Rooms" in physical spaces. 
  • It needs to be multilingual
  • It's can be a force for training local librarians (and other community members) in digital technologies
  • Can it be a force for combining civic tech communities with librarians?
    •  #open311 + dpla = national connective tissue on community problems and solutions?
  • It's the data source powering the serendipomatic

Here's a #vizthink capturing some of the ideas from today's opening session made by @willowb100.

The events in Boston this week had originally been scheduled to take place in April and were postponed in response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon. At that time Dan Cohen, the Executive Director of DPLA, wrote these words:
"I see the building of a new library as one of the greatest examples of what humans can do together to extend the light against the darkness. In due time, we will let that light shine through."
The dpla  - its communities of activists, scholars, supporters, coders - truly shone this week.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

As someone whose work straddles academia and nonprofit social change, I care about this very deeply. I have a real problem with the commodification of knowledge and the extent to which my own students, to use a micro example, are sent really harmful mixed messages, immediately after launching their careers: on the one hand, that they should be lifelong learners, committed to improving their capacity to effect social change and, on the other hand, that they will be denied access to the very information that we like to think can feed that transformation, unless they can afford steep access fees. Especially given the scale of the challenges we face today, we must do better.