The Innovative Digital Public Library of America

Following a growing trend of digital portal libraries, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) website launched in April 2013. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University leads this ambitious project, which was sparked by an October 2012 meeting of forty leaders from libraries, foundations, academia, and technology projects. Starting from 2011, the Berkman Center took a two-year period to bring together hundreds of public and research librarians, innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers helped to scope, design, and construct the DPLA. The project aims to collaborate online resources to create “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future  generations.”[2]

The freshly initiated DPLA project has a larger than 2 million collection contributed by 18 American archives, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage institutions to provide free access to students, teachers, scholars, and the public. They are hoping to get more partners as the project grows along.

DPLA is also features an innovative search portal. The portal provides special features like a map, a timeline, and several apps to improve discovery and creation. The map function shows the locations of items from a search request if the metadata records provide the location information. The timeline allows users to visually browse search results by year or decade. And the apps provide access to applications and tools created by external developers using DPLA’s open data. Thus, users of the Digital Public Library of America can create their own apps to browse the collection. These new features make DPLA more intuitive and visual.

In addition to its innovative display of search results, DPLA also creates a nationwide hub program: DPLA Digital Hubs Program. This network is supported by its more than forty state and regional digital libraries with their collections and services. These partners share their 250,000 metadata records resolving to digital objects, including online texts, photographs, manuscript materials, art work, etc. They also maintain and edit these records to keep them up to date. Furthermore, these state or regional digital libraries also offer their state or regional partners standardized digital services, ranging from digitization, metadata creation data aggregation and and storage. They also promote the digital collections locally to bring in more local users.

Specific hub lists can be found here:

The University of Illinois Library is part of this new initiative. We have contributed more than 16,000 items and metadata for 15 of our digital collections to the DPLA, including the Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design, Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920, Historical Maps Online, and the Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image Library.  We are also one of the content hubs. We hope to contribute more in the future. DPLA gives both our library and the users more accessibility to share our collection. If you want more information of this project, please check their website at

Update: On June 18, 2013, the HathiTrust partnered with the DPLA “to expand discovery and use of HathiTrust’s public domain and other openly available content.”[5]

Other Digital Library Portals:


World Digital Library:

The European Library (which Christina John posted about in January 2013):


[1] Digital Public Library of America.

[2] Digital Public Library of American. History.

[3] Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Launches Today. Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

[4] Digital Public Library of America. Wiki.

[5] HathiTrust to partner with DPLA. DPLA Blog.

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The Doujin Culture and the Pheromone of User Generated Content

Doujin (sometimes spelled dojin), is a phrase of Japanese invention, referring to groups of people with a specific interest. Although it began as literary societies in the Meiji era (1868-1912), modern doujin groups (often translated as Circle in English) refer to those that produce self-published works, which doujin has become an abbreviation for the created works. Such creations can include doujinshi (magazines, comics, or books), doujin soft (software, often games), or even doujin music.

The line into Comiket 77, December 2009.

What’s interesting about the doujin market is that it exists on the grounds of unauthorized exceptions – large majority of doujin works infringes on copyrights. As demand for doujin creations continues to grow exponentially (see What is Comic Market from the official page of Comiket), there is virtually no one pursuing damages for misappropriation or unauthorized usage in Japan.

So, why is that?

As outlined in Lawrence Lessig’s book, Free Culture, it is not an unbelievable situation. The idea of content borrowing, creating a transformed derivative work feels acceptable. And, well, there’s the problem of the lack of resources to prosecute all these infringing creators.

Although many of us may not interact with creations associated with doujin groups, we can relate on another front: User-Generated Contents.

How often have you reached a Youtube video without music (or even completely removed) because of DMCA take downs? Now, the follow-up question is: how often are those new creations through remix, only found on the web? I’m guessing you have at least one or two

Screen shot of the popular Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga playing a video.

in mind. For me, this mashup comes to mind; keep in mind that this creation both came from and still exists on Nico Nico Douga, the leading video streaming site in Japan.

But, there are a variety of reasons why people aren’t flocking to Nico Nico to watch videos that were taken down. There’s the idea of platform familiarity or having an extra account means more privacy concerns. The greatest influence, arguably, is that it’s not hard to imagine an infringing video being put up, time after time, attempting to fly under the radar (a practice many of us are familiar with).

Delving deeper into the remix, user generated, doujin phenomenon just gives more headaches, however. Inherently, this is a multivariate problem intersecting law, culture, internationalization, and digitization. But this copy-remix culture will continue to grow, on a widespread scale, and it will bash against legislation and litigation; it is a part of globalization, a part of connectivity.

Of course, that is not to say that we will always keep policies that doujin or user-generated creations, but it will be a long time before we’re legally used to them.

Note: I highly discourage searching for reference information regarding doujins on popular search engines as the majority of the information yielded will be pornographic. The English word doujin is colloquially used to describe drawn pornography by doujin groups. The best way to finding information regarding the culture is by searching scholarly articles or tracking relevant citations.

Related Resources:

The Anime and Manga Research Circle is a good resource to other scholars about the doujin culture.

There exist some best practices regarding fair use for user-generated content worth reading up on for these services (supported by major corporations) and video creation . There are also many resources within our library on User-Generated Content.

The Doujinshi & Manga Lexicon is a fan maintained database of modern doujinshi produced (entries includes both pornographic and non-pornographic doujinshi).

It may also be useful to read about remix and its culture. For example Remix Theory is a good place to find some focused research on remixes. Searching for remix on the University Library catelogue also yields many resources, such as examples of remix, how to create remixes, as well as analysis of remix theories and culture.

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Making the Invisible Visible: The Secret Vatican Archives.

With the surprise and somewhat sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI the Catholic Church and the Vatican have been thrust onto the world stage. While the world will be focused upon the conclave of cardinals who will elect a new Pope at the end of this March, little attention will be paid to the world beneath the Cathedrals of Rome where miles and miles of underground shelving and antiquated parchment make up the Secret Vatican Archives (Archivum Secretum Vaticanum).

Some of the 50 miles of bookshelves in the Vatican secret archive Photo: The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books

Some of the 50 miles of bookshelves in the Vatican secret archive Photo: The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books

Perhaps made famous by its depiction in the 2009 film based off of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons the archive has always had an aura of mystery, conspiracy, and black legend attached to its name. While much of this has been exaggerated in film and literature the archive does hold some of the world’s oldest and most influential documents including priceless materials such as:

  •  Handwritten records of Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition
  • The 1530 petition from England’s House of Lords asking the Pope to annual Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon
  • Letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis during the U.S. Civil War
  • The papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther
  • Letters from Michelangelo including one where he complained about not receiving payment for his work on the Sistine Chapel.

Founded in 1612 the Vatican Secret Archives is a treasure trove of documents whose materials cover a time span that stretches from the 8th to 20th century.  Specifically, the archives is the central archives “of the Holy See and contains the historical archives of different private and public institution,” which include various religious orders and famous families and individuals[1].

For most of the world, the archive’s priceless cultural items have remained hidden deep within the Vatican for over 400 years. In fact it wasn’t until 1881 that Pope Leo XIII opened the doors of the archive to scholars from all faiths and nations. Even today there are strict limitations to what archive users are able to view and access. For instance no materials dated after 1939 are available for public viewing.

A document from the Vatican Secret Archives with Galileo's own signature.

A document from the Vatican Secret Archives with Galileo’s own signature. Photo Courtsey Lux in Arcana Exhibit

And yet in the spirit of open access and freedom of information that is foundational to the library and information world, even the Vatican’s Secret Archives is trying to shed light into its often hidden archive. This metaphor is perfectly illustrated in the chosen name of the archive’s first ever exhibit Lux in Arcana or “Light in Mysterious Places.”  Opened from March to September 2012 the Vatican assembled an exhibit to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the archive’s founding.  The exhibit, which can be sampled online, hopes to promote a greater sense of openness by displaying 100 of its most prized original documents. Historically the archive’s documents have only been viewed by few individuals outside the Vatican, however the Lux in Arcana exhibit opens the archive’s contents up to millions of eyes around the world. The Vatican Library is also following this trend to share its materials with the world with the recent announcement of its ambitious project to digitize large portions of its collection including the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed using movable type in Europe. [2]

With the unprecedented Lux in Arcana exhibition and now upcoming election of a new pope the Vatican, a bastion of tradition, shows signs of change and evolution.



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HathiTrust Digital Library for World Scholars

HathiTrust Logo

The HathiTrust Digital Library, which is a consortium of libraries working to digitize and make available a wide variety of cultural documents, has recently won an important “Fair Use” victory in court. What HathiTrust is doing is now legally considered “transformative,” but for researchers, HathiTrust has already been very transformative.

HathiTrust has currently digitized over 10 million volumes of which less than half are in English. (See more HathiTrust statistics.) There are languages from Abkhazian to Zuni for the multilingual researcher to explore. Not all HathiTrust books, however, are available to everyone.  Some books are not yet in the public domain, so they are only searchable and not fully readable.

To get started exploring the HathiTrust’s rich collection of resources, check out a few of their internationally-focused collections:

To search HathiTrust effectively, consider that there are two basic ways to search, catalog search and full-text search. The catalog search function searches the bibliographic record for the item, including title, author, language, date, and basic subjects. The full-text search searches inside the document for words. Both search functions allow you to limit to particular languages, and also to only full-text documents.

The search results for HathiTrust have faceted search on the side, like the University of Illinois’ own VuFind catalog, which allows searchers to refine their results further by subject, date, language, and so on.

For who want to “browse” the collection by call number, like at a physical library, books can be searched by Library of Congress Classification. For instance, those looking for books classified as “Home Economics” would search for “TX.”

The University of Illinois catalog also holds records and links to HathiTrust full-text books, so when you’re searching our catalogs you may notice them in your results.

But the best part about the HathiTrust Digital Library — if you belong to a HathiTrust partner institution (like the University of Illinois!) then you can download free PDF copies of full-text resources!

If you’ve been looking for a way to explore multi-lingual archival material without all of the dust and papercuts, HathiTrust is a great place to start exploring the emerging world of open-access digital archives.

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National Libraries: Working to Preserve a Nation’s Cultural Heritage

Libraries are important cultural institutions that work to not only provide universal access to information and knowledge, but also preserve the cultural heritage and identity of the communities they serve. National libraries such as the United States’ Library of Congress or Spain’s Biblioteca Nacional de España work to achieve these objectives on a national scale.

Now, imagine the United States without the Library of Congress or the National Archives? What would happen to the Constitution? The Declaration of Independence? Or even the papers of our past Presidents? These materials are vital to understanding the values and tenants that shape our national past and future.

Unfortunately, the people of Afghanistan face this very issue. Decades of conflict have decimated the Kabul University Library, which also served as Afghanistan’s National Library.

An article written by Abdul Rasoul Rahin, a former director of the Kabul University Library, describes the once impressive holdings of the library. The Kabul University library held “200,000 books, 5,000 manuscripts, 10,000 books on Afghanistan Studies, 10,000 bound volumes of periodicals, 3,000 rare books, 10,000 electronic materials, 2,000 photo albums, 5,000 calligraphic specimens, and a strong collection of national archival and documentary materials.”[1] Like libraries all over the world the Kabul University Library worked to collect, preserve, and make accessible these valuable informational and cultural materials for the people of Afghanistan.

Sadly, the Afghanistan Civil War and other international conflicts have left the nation of Afghanistan in a state of turmoil since 1978. Since that time the materials of the Kabul University Library and other Afghani cultural institutions have been dispersed clandestinely over the black market or destroyed by fire and neglect. In the 1990s alone, “tens of thousands of books in both the Kabul Public Library and the Kabul University Library were destroyed under Taliban rule.”[2]

While conflicts continue to occur, positive efforts such as the Afghanistan Digital Library are working to both rebuild the libraries of Afghanistan and also preserve surviving Afghani collections and materials. A project of the New York University Libraries and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities the Afghanistan Digital Library works with public institutions in Afghanistan and private collectors throughout the world in order to collect, catalog, digitize, and make available over the internet as many Afghan publications from the periods of 1871-1930, the earliest period of publishing in Afghanistan. Digitized materials will include rare books, historic photographs, newspapers, government documents, and journals.

In doing this the Afghanistan Digital Library will not only help in the process of “constructing a national bibliography for the country,” but also “reconstruct an essential part of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.”[3] Most importantly however, the project will help bring the contents of Afghanistan’s history back into the hands of its people.

To visit and explore the Afghanistan Digital Library please click the link here.

[1] Rahin, Abdul Rasoul. “The Situation of Kabul University Library: Its Past and Present” World Libraries 8.2 (Spring 1998). Web.

[2] Lee, Felicia R. “Protecting an Endangered Afghan Species: Books.” New York Times 29 March 2003. Web.

[3] “About the Afghanistan Digital Library.” Afghanistan Digital Library. n.d. Web. 22 October 2012.


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