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The Library of Utopia
June 7, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

"Despite the challenges it faces, the Digital Public Library of America has an enthusiastic corps of volunteers and some generous contributors. It seems likely that by this time next year, it will have reached its first milestone and begun operating a metadata exchange of some sort. But what happens after that? Will the library be able to extend the scope of its collection beyond the early years of the last century? Will it be able to offer services that spark the interest of the public? If the DPLA is nothing more than plumbing, the project will have failed to live up to its grand name and its even grander promise."
posted by davidjmcgee (10 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm still unclear what dp.la may offer at some point in the future that openlibrary.org doesn't already offer today. Can someone explain?
posted by louie at 11:15 AM on June 7, 2012


Yeah, the seem to want to link all the locally-digitzed stuff with an overarching catalog:
"Many universities, public libraries, and other public-spirited organizations have digitized materials that could be brought together under the frame of the DPLA, but these digital collections often exist in silos. Compounding this problem are disparate technical standards, disorganized and incomplete metadata, and a host of legal issues. No project has yet succeeded in bringing these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together with leading technical experts and the best of private industry to find solutions to these complex challenges. Users have neither coherent access to these materials nor tools to use them in new and exciting ways, and institutions have no clear blueprint for creating a shared infrastructure to serve the public good. The time is right to launch an ambitious project to realize the great promise of the Internet for the advancement of sharing information and of using technology to enable new knowledge and discoveries in the United States."

(emphasis mine.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks! Realistically, it seems like the coherent access tool will be Google (either through the main search engine or Google Books) but more power to them for trying.
posted by louie at 11:23 AM on June 7, 2012


Well, the giant, unified catalog that LibraryThing is putting together is another neat project.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:37 AM on June 7, 2012


it seems like the coherent access tool will be Google (either through the main search engine or Google Books

I'd be glad to have other options that allow for more sophisticated searches than what Google's been turning out lately. For instance, you used to be able to plug a web search directly into a scholar search by clicking on the black navigation bar at top of Google's page, but this feature was removed last year, much to the discontent of users.

Also, I recently noticed in Google Book Search that its sort by date (as opposed to relevancy) feature was broken. Clicking "sort by date" when running a search of four or more terms drastically reduces the number of hits (sometimes removing all of them). I sent in a bug report only to get a machine response thanking me for my Google Play "feedback."
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:55 AM on June 7, 2012


I'm still unclear what dp.la may offer at some point in the future that openlibrary.org doesn't already offer today

A lot of the difference is due to the fact that LibraryThing is books, and DPLA is often things (e.g. archives/holdings of humanities stuff, which has been digitized).

- Books come with existing metadata, archives stuff often doesn't.
- Books are reasonably homogeneous things, archive stuff is not.
- Book metadata is standardized, archive metadata is often not (same applies to IP issues, copyright, etc.)

Existing metadata is often okay (although not spectacular) for searching within specific archives, but building metadata for searching across archives (for instance by mapping local archival descriptions to a common standard) is a huge challenge, orders of magnitude harder.
posted by carter at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2012


it seems like the coherent access tool will be Google (either through the main search engine or Google Books

Possibly, but Google gets its real strength partly from calculating page rank from graphs of the Web. Archives catalogs however are not graphs, they're databases.

You can do a content search of archives backends by exposing them to Google - but this then implies that you have to generate the descriptions in the first place. Some of this could be automated, though, if the digitized artifacts are machine readable.
posted by carter at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2012


Why do people keep trying to reinvent the Internet Archive?
posted by koeselitz at 3:34 PM on June 7, 2012


Why do people keep trying to reinvent the Internet Archive?

Unless the Internet Archive has started a project to make discoverable non-digital objects, there's at least part of the DPLA project that the Internet Archive can't really touch.
posted by griffey at 6:05 PM on June 7, 2012


Also - previous thread on Google Books and metadata.
posted by carter at 10:59 PM on June 7, 2012


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