The following is part of a series that looks at The Digital Public Library of America - the first national effort to aggregate existing records in state and regional digital libraries so that they are searchable from a single portal. It is written by Annie Schutte, a librarian, teacher and consultant for Knight Foundation.
The Minnesota Digital Library currently serves as a hub for more than 150 libraries and cultural heritage organizations around the state, and aspires to "expand that dramatically" working with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Associate University Librarian at the University of Minnesota and service hub Director John Butler describes the Minnesota Digital Library' s current partners as spanning "from academia to Main Street." He is particularly interested in trying to partner with urban community groups to reach into new content areas, such as bringing oral histories from Minnesota's immigrant and refugee population including the Hmong and Somali communities, into the archive.
The Minnesota Digital Library first online exhibit for the DPLA will showcase its impressive collections of images and documents from its Native American cultures and populations. But the collaboration will, as a whole, bring a wealth of diverse materials to DPLA—more than 130,000 items spanning topics as far ranging as Vaudeville, ice palaces and the historic Twin Cities’ streetcars.
In this interview, Butler talks about the DPLA's data-related challenges in this massive undertaking, such as record duplication and record disparities. But more importantly, he speaks of the immense possibilities this data aggregation presents for understanding our cultural history; and the way that DPLA could change how to do research.
Could you tell me about your organization and how you became involved with the Digital Public Library of America?
J.B: My affiliation with the DPLA primarily comes through the Minnesota Digital Library, which is a statewide collaboration consisting of Minitex, a library resource-sharing network in our region (Minnesota and the Dakotas), the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society, and other key institutions large and small throughout the state of Minnesota, such as academic and public libraries, art and historical museums, clubs, and others. We have numerous religious and non-profit organizations, genealogists, history hobbyists—spanning academia down to Main Street. The participating organizations are represented in the management and advisory functions at the Minnesota Digital Library, as well as in the collections that we have built over the past eight or so years.
I think it was the Minnesota Digital Library’s tremendous diversity and sheer number of contributors that attracted DPLA’s interest in our prospects as an initial participant. We have over 150 content contributors to Minnesota Digital Library that on Day One of DPLA launch will be represented at the national level, and by means of the project, we hope to expand the number of contributors dramatically.
Could you tell me about the types of contributors you're looking to reach out to?