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Digital Public Library of America

DPLA collage using old posters.

Elements of the DPLA

About | Elements of the DPLA | SecretariatStaff | Steering Committee | Board

Although many different opinions exist as to the characteristics of the ultimate deliverable, the DPLA, all agree that our goal is to create a resource that goes well beyond providing simple access to digitized or born digital content.


Code is the technical backbone of the DPLA. Where possible, the DPLA will make use of existing free and open source code; all new code funded by the DPLA will be free and open source. In order to facilitate and maximize interoperability, the DPLA platform will support open standards. It will be freely accessible for others to fork, host, and replicate with no discrimination based on use or field of endeavor.


Metadata is a key part of the DPLA discovery framework; it describes content and resources in the DPLA, enables users to find them, and connects US holdings to holdings in other countries. The DPLA will aggregate existing library data and create new data; it will operate as part of a global linked data environment. All DPLA-created metadata will be made freely available in reusable form, except where doing so would violate personal privacy. All metadata contributed to or funded by the DPLA will be placed in the public domain.


The DPLA will incorporate all media types and formats including the written record—books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, and digital texts—and expanding into visual and audiovisual materials in concert with existing repositories. In order to lay a solid foundation for its collections, the DPLA will begin with works in the public domain that have already been digitized and are accessible through other initiatives. Further material will be added incrementally to this basic foundation, starting with orphan works and materials that are in copyright but out-of-print. The DPLA will also explore models for digital lending of in-copyright materials. The content that is contributed to or funded by the DPLA will be made available, including through bulk download, with no new restrictions, via a service available to libraries, museums, and archives in the United States, with use and reuse governed only by public law.

Tools and Services

The DPLA will provide a number of tools and services designed to provide enhanced use of content. There will also be tools to facilitate digitization of and broad public access to content. The DPLA platform will be generative and open to public innovation to facilitate new discovery, encourage new kinds of questions, and enable the creation of new tools and services, including social sharing and networking services, research tools, and as-yet unforeseen applications. Tools and services funded by the DPLA will be made available in forms that enable their reuse and extension.


The DPLA will be designed as a participatory platform that facilitates the involvement of the public in all aspects of its design, development, deployment, maintenance, and support. The DPLA will actively support the community of users and developers that want to reuse and extend its content, data, and metadata.

Photos courtesy of The National Library of New Zealand on Flickr