13,000+ University of Scranton Records Now Available in the Digital Public Library of America

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by Kristen Yarmey, Digital Services Librarian

The Digital Public Library of America (http://dp.la) announced this spring that it had grown in its third year to include more than 13 million records. We’re proud that over 13,000 of those records were contributed by the University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library.

Launched in 2013, DPLA is a digital platform and network that brings together descriptive information for rare and unique digital materials from more than 1,900 libraries, archives, and museums across the country. It’s a portal to treasures of American cultural heritage, from digitized photographs, films, documents, and objects to born digital ebooks, video, and images. All of these materials are freely available on the web for use by researchers, students, teachers, genealogists, and the general public.

We’ve been building digital collections at the University of Scranton since 2008, and nearly all of our materials are already publicly available on our website (http://www.scranton.edu/library/digitalcollections). So why participate in DPLA?

DPLA doesn’t host digital materials – they’re all stored and made accessible by contributing institutions like the Weinberg Memorial Library – so it’s still our job to digitize, describe, preserve, and publish digital items. What DPLA does is make these materials discoverable and usable in entirely new and exciting ways. Metadata records (descriptive information) that we send to DPLA are aggregated into a stream of open data that can be used by software developers and others to create new tools or visualizations. Two of our favorites are the DPLA Visual Search Prototype and Culture Collage, which offer more visual interfaces for browsing and sorting through search results.

Perhaps most importantly, DPLA allows for unified access, which is important both for 1) users who don’t necessarily know what institution will have the materials they’re looking for and 2) collections that have been physically fragmented across different institutions.

An example of the former might be a genealogist looking for information about family members from Scranton. Using DPLA, they can find not only relevant materials in our collections (like our yearbooks and Aquinas issues, which are excellent sources for information about our alumni) but they’ll also stumble across photographs and manuscripts from the Lackawanna Historical Society and Scranton Public Library (via the Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives), periodicals and records from the Pennsylvania State Library, postcards from the Boston Public Library, digitized Scranton history books from HathiTrust, and genealogical books from the Library of Congress.

An example of the latter is the Horace G. Healey Collection, an impressive set of 19th century penmanship and calligraphy. Half of the collection is available here on campus in our McHugh Special Collections (as part of our Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection), but the other half is at the New York Public Library. In DPLA, images of the artwork are reunited as they are digitized.

Our participation in DPLA has been in the works for almost two years. DPLA is unable to accept metadata records directly from individual libraries – there are just too many potential contributors! – so almost all of its data passes through nodes called Service Hubs. Most service hubs are established at a state or regional level, and Pennsylvania didn’t have one when DPLA first launched. Beginning in August 2014, a group of Pennsylvania cultural heritage institutions got together to discuss how best to collaborate on digital collections in the state. After a year of planning, coordination, and tons of work, the PA Digital Partnership (https://padigital.org/) was approved as a DPLA Service Hub in August 2015. On April 13, 2016, data from the PA Digital Partnership went live in DPLA, with over 130,000 records from 19 contributing Pennsylvania institutions.

We’re incredibly proud to be part of DPLA and the PA Digital Partnership, and we’re thrilled to see our digital collections become more accessible and discoverable than ever. We hope that you'll visit DPLA to explore the wealth of cultural heritage that the University of Scranton and other Pennsylvania institutions have made available.