My favorite tweet in a long time, courtesy of @electriclit:
It’s going to be a good day. The Digital Public Library of America opens at noon: j.mp/15hTf0w // @dpla
Today is launch day for the DPLA. Hooray! So many people have worked so very hard in the past two years to get the plan down, the services built, the data in, and the site up and running. It’s just a start. There’s vastly more to be done. And it’s not the launch day we had in mind; the in-person celebration will have to wait until the fall. But the team got to the launch date on time and on budget. I’m so grateful to everyone who has put their shoulder to this wheel together, across institutions, time, and space.
The key message of the launch of the Digital Public Library of America today is that collaboration can work. We can build together, using the design and the principles of the web itself, a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. The future of libraries is bright indeed if this same spirit that has gotten us to DPLA launch day can persist. Under the leadership of the founding executive director Dan Cohen and the founding team of Emily Gore, Amy Rudersdorf, and Kenny Whitebloom, I am highly confident that it will. Thanks to each of them for taking the leap of faith to work full-time on this start-up. Because as of today, the DPLA is in their hands, spun-off, officially, from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University into a shiny, new, approved 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The collaboration to get to this point has taken many forms. The number of different types of institutions that had to come together to make this possible is itself remarkable. For starters, a group of forward-looking funders had to agree to come together to pay for something that is going to be enormous, and very expensive. Our founding support has come, in the form of millions of dollars, from the Sloan Foundation, the Arcadia Fund, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Knight Foundation (disclosure: I am on its Board of Trustees), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Open Society Institute also supported a key meeting, with our new partners at Europeana. First among equals is Doron Weber, vice president of the Sloan Foundation, whose vision this project this is, as much as anyone’s. Without all this financial support to date, and more still to come, there would be no DPLA.
There would also not be a DPLA without human involvement from librarians, archivists, museum staff, technologists, and people who care about these things from a vast array of public and private institutions. The human interoperability — literally, thousands of people working together, virtually and in person — to build something on this scale, for the country and the world, is impressive. The vast majority of people working on the DPLA are volunteers, coordinated by a tiny core staff who are devoting their full-time efforts to the cause. It is how the web has been built, it is how free software is built, it is how social media is being built, it is how Wikipedia is being built. This approach scales, it can thrive, and it can be sustainable. It is working. The launch of the DPLA is proof that it can work in the world of libraries in a digital-plus era.
The Obama Administration has promoted the creation of public-private partnerships to solve the country’s hardest problems and to create jobs. I think the @dpla is a perfect example of how this strategy can work. We are so grateful for the leadership of the National Archives and the Smithsonian, as content partners, and the NEH and the IMLS, as funders, for joining with those of us in the private sector to make this launch happen. Those who don’t think government can work don’t know what leaders like David Ferriero, Susan Hildreth, Martin Kalfatovich, Eva Caldera, and Jim Leach do for us all as public servants. They know how to collaborate with the private sector — like the growing number of content and service hubs across the country — in the broader public interest. There are many others in Washington, DC, and in state government who could jump in to help. We welcome you any time. We are solving a hard problem for the country and we have created new jobs — four so far, and counting. We can do so much more as we add partners and build out the open, generative platform that is live today and will be much stronger tomorrow.
To my closest colleagues on the Berkman Center/DPLA team — Maura Marx, Rebekah “The Bomb” Heacock, and Kenny Whitebloom in particular, and Robert Darnton, the university librarian — my virtual hat is tipped to you for years of hard work and inspiration. You are the best colleagues I could ever wish for. Thanks for what you’ve done. Ditto to the entire Berkman Center team, led on this project by my great friends Urs Gasser, Colin Maclay, and Caroline Nolan. You have proven, once again, what an unparalleled incubation space the Berkman Center can be. Other members of Harvard’s faculty — Terry Fisher, Charlie Nesson, and Jonathan Zittrain — have led the work in special and constructive ways. The tech teams, led by Jeffrey Licht at pod consulting, iFactory, and ThumbTack, deserve special thanks, too. Every beta sprinter and app developer, making use of the newly open API, is just awesome; you will make the case for why the DPLA ought to be, at its core, a free and open platform with free and open metadata and content, to the greatest extent we can make it that way. Our pro bono lawyers at WilmerHale have gotten us our 501(c)(3) status in what must be record-time, ready for launch. (And Maura: you’ll be the Best Fed Ever at IMLS. Congratulations on your major appointment.)
To every member of the Steering Committee, every member of the new Board, every member of the Workstreams, and everyone who has piled in on an event, listserv, hackathon, Beta Sprint, or meet-up: thank you for your partnership, goodwill, and contributions to come. This is just the beginning — of something very big, if we can keep the band together and keep it growing.
Thanks, @electriclit, whomever you may be: it is a good day indeed. May there be many more such good days in the future.