The Digital Public Library of America is the new kid on the block filled with online book resources. The online book resources are amazing troves of history, genealogy and other discipline-related books. They are fully digitized and sometimes every-word searchable books posted online for you and me to gain free and easy access. For more detail on online book sites in general check out this post.
What is the Digital Public Library of America?
The Digital Public Library of America is unique among them as it does not host books, images, or digital artifacts on it site as the others do. Instead it aggregates information from many sites, i.e. Library of Congress, Hathi Trust, and includes pointers to the site where the article resides. In a way it is like WorldCat, which is a catalog of resources in 10,000 libraries worldwide. The distinction is that the Digital Public Library of America points only to online works and not those in “brick and mortar” repositories as WorldCat does.
As I mentioned it is new. I think it is about a year old. As a result its collection is nice-sized at about 7 million items and growing fast. I’ve heard commentary that it is well-regarded even at this young age, and hopes are high that it will be a big player in the market soon.
Why Would You Use the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)?
There are at least a dozen large online book repositories. HathiTrust, Google Books, and Internet Archive to name just a few. If you were looking for an online book or information on a subject, it would take a lot of time to thoroughly search each of these collections. And as wonderful as they are in making accessible books that in hard copy are thousands of miles away, it would be even better to search only one place. Enter DPLA. To some degree now and certainly more so over time, the DPLA will be that one-stop shop.
Using the DPLA
The DPLA functions just like the other online book websites or an online book catalog, in that you simply put in your topic, title, or author and search. The result is like a card catalog listing that describes the resource, but then it includes a hyperlink to the listing on the partner book website. Click that and you soon have access to the book.
The DPLA has a really unique Timeline feature. (And you know I love timelines!) It is an interactive historical timeline that you can play with. It defaults to a modern timeline segmented by years and decades. Click on any year and it will return all of the books, images, and other resources in its collection that are related to that year! I clicked on “1976,” and it returned 26,801 items. The first item was a picture of Gerald Ford, who was President at the time, working in the Oval Office. Pretty Cool.
If you are looking for historical events that coincided with your ancestor’s life, you can turn to this tool. Maybe you already have a historical timeline for your ancestor that you generated on OurTimelines. Would like some pictures and historical narratives to supplement it? Here’s your solution.
The Digital Public Library of America is yet another great tool awaiting the genealogist. Do avail yourself of it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.