For three years the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has been assembling a vast online library to document "the full range of human experience." By reaching out to libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies throughout the United States, the DPLA has gathered metadata from a vast number of digital collections online, including photographs, books, manuscripts, moving images, and audio recordings. Despite having a staff of fewer than twenty people, the DPLA now provides access to over fourteen million records.
The DPLA has earned the "A" in its acronym by creating a network of content and service "hubs" around the country. Content hubs are collections extensive enough in themselves to work with the DPLA directly (for example, the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Public Library—and HathiTrust as the largest of them of all). The service hubs, meanwhile, act as mediators. Rather than provide collections, the service hubs establish relationships with smaller cultural institutions throughout a state, determine the different kinds of metadata those institutions use to make their collections accessible online, and then match (or "map") those metadata to the set (or "schema") of metadata that the DPLA uses. Once the metadata are mapped, the service hub sends them to the DPLA, and those digital collections can then be found using the DPLA's website.
Most of the service hubs represent one state (with some exceptions—Florida's hub, for example, includes libraries throughout the Caribbean). So unless a state has a service hub it will be under-represented when anyone—a student, teacher, genealogist, or history buff—turns to the DPLA to research a topic in American history or culture. If that topic happens to be something like "the automobile industry," digital collections from Michigan will be especially important.
Fortunately, Michigan joined the DPLA's network last year, and the Michigan Service Hub so far includes the Library of Michigan, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, and the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services. During its first year, the team assigned to the hub were busy establishing metadata standards and reviewing digital collections hosted online by the member universities (known as 'sub hubs'). The team selected several of these collections and then began preparing their metadata for sharing with the DPLA.
That first 'harvest' of metadata will officially make Michigan a part of the DPLA experience and should be complete before the end of the year. After that the service hub will share more collections, not only from the sub-hubs but also from cultural institutions throughout Michigan. Eventually, the hub may offer other services to those institutions, perhaps including digitization and metadata consulting to help smaller institutions make their collections easier to find, both on the DPLA's website and on their own.
In the coming months, I will have more updates about the Michigan Service Hub. As the coordinator, I will be working with the rest of the hub's team on reaching out to Michigan's cultural institutions, selecting digital collections, and preparing their metadata for the DPLA. Michigan has a rich diversity of communities that is reflected in the wealth of its collections, and we look forward to sharing them far beyond our state borders.