In the Digital Attic: Dan Cohen to Lead DPLA

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced today that Dan Cohen has been named its founding Executive Director.  I wish him and the DPLA best wishes as they move forward into this next phase of the roll-out and development of this organization. 

One of the challenges the DPLA faces is how to build a viable, sustainable set of relationships with all of the existing public libraries across the United States.  Frankly, some public librarians and other interested parties are worried that the DPLA may make local public libraries redundant.  On his blog, Dan placed a post today announcing his move to DPLA.  He took some time to explain his sense of how DPLA will interact with all these local community public library.  Here is what he said in part:

The DPLA will in no way replace the thousands of public libraries that are at the heart of so many communities across this country, but instead will extend their commitment to the public sphere, and provide them with an extraordinary digital attic and the technical infrastructure and services to deliver local cultural heritage materials everywhere in the nation and the world.

Developing an “extraordinary digital attic” has a nice metaphoric ring to it, but I think that the third thing Dan mentions – services – will be the rub.  What sort of digital library services will the DPLA provide, and how well will these services work?  I have followed the development of the DPLA for a couple of years now, admittedly in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, and I have to admit that this questions of services, not collections, has been of the most interest and concern to me.  I hope the DPLA, under Dan’s leadership, works equally hard on all three things:  digital collections gathering less digital dust in the attic, technical infrastructure, and compelling national library services. 

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