DPLA now considering separate academic and public library systems, and meanwhile the first Beta Sprint deadline is nearing—June 15

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imageAn earlier post served up a little tough-love for the Digital Public Library of America.

I badly want the DPLA to succeed, but its people need to cut out the library-unity rhetoric and work toward intertwined but separate public and academic systems.  My post was pessimistic about such miracles unfolding in a reasonable time. No need for a split immediately. But it definitely should be in the plans, ideally with at least a tentative deadline—given the different needs and priorities of public and scholarly libraries (see here and here and here).

imageWell, yesterday, John Palfrey, the steering committee leader, told the DPLA email list that the informal committee met by phone last month and “has heard and acknowledges the broad discussion on the listserv about dropping the P.” That’s the “Public” in “Digital Public Library of America.” A P-less DPLA would make it easier for a genuine public system to happen, since preemption would be less likely. Only three local public librarians, none from small towns, serve on the 17-member steering committee right now, and as I see it, the March 2011 Concept Note favors the scholarly libraries.

About the name issue, the email said: “SC members are asked to think about their views on this matter and to test variants/new ideas and bring feedback to the June in-person SC meeting.”

Ideally the DPLA will do the right thing and understand that with a dual-system approach, publib patrons could still enjoy direct access to the academic content and forums—through the scholarly library itself or through joint catalogues and other discovery tools. What’s more, if the current project’s organizers stick to their intentions of playing up open content, public librarians could endlessly reposition the scholarly material. This is, after all, the era of hyperlinks and mirroring and the like; and the academic and publib sides could still share a common tech organization and cooperate in countless other ways.

The same email from the DPLA mentioned the steering committee’s plans to meet on June 13. in Washington, D.C.,  in person. “Open,” in both the physical and netcast senses, would be nice. But at least the release of the date is a start. Also on the positive, the word is that the DPLA’s selection of participants for the workstream committees will emphasize diversity in different ways, "bringing in members from state/local governments, education, tech, entrepreneurs/innovative business, for-profit world, local government.”

On the Beta Sprint front, John Palfrey tells us that “Steering committee members are asked to brainstorm ideas for the review panel and nominate reviews who are not SC members. The panel will be announced in July.” The DPLA has received at least seven submissions (“in various forms of formality/completeness”).

An idea toward which I’m rather enthusiastic is for the DPLA to play matchmaker and connect Beta Sprint competitors who have complementary interests. Either from different library systems or within one system, I can see a mix of a librarian and computer systems expert to determine needs, an editor-writer, an artist-designer to spiff up the site or mockup, and a programmer (and, yes, I could go on to mention other categories, I’m sure). Go ahead! Give it a shot.

For more on the Beta Sprint project, see this page (contact email address is here). Deadline for statements of interest, 400 words or less, is June 15. Actual submissions are due September 1, with the review results announced in late September or early October. The DPLA will exhibit the best beta entries at a public meeting in Washington, DC.

Related: CLIR/DLF Receives Mellon Foundation Funding for Digital Public Library of America Prototype. The amount is $46,000.

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