APA Collections — DPLA (Digital Public Library of America)

DPLA: A Vast Ocean of Information

by Jaena Rae Cabrera

screen-capture image of DPLA front page

Digital Public Library of America front page

I first learned about the Digital Public Library of America while studying for my MLIS at Syracuse University. When I heard about their call out for Community Reps, I figured it would be a good way for me to learn more about the DPLA, as well as an opportunity to meet others with similar interests in open access, digitization, etc. For DPLA, the community reps program helps them connect with local communities. Community reps assist with community outreach, not content recruitment, aggregation, or digitization.

From their FAQ page: DPLA “brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. The DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used.”

As a community rep, I also see an opportunity to explore DPLA’s definition of “America’s heritage” and how much (or how little) it includes the APA community, perhaps with the help of the APALA community.

This first post is meant as an introduction or overview of the DPLA.


The DPLA homepage highlights its function as a portal of discovery. Through the DPLA, students, teachers and the public have access to over 5.6 million items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States.

Users may browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, visual bookshelf, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others. Users can also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff.


Where does DPLA content come from?

One important distinction to note is that the DPLA aggregates metadata records—the information that describes an item, such as its creator, date, place, provenance and so forth—not the content itself. Each record in the DPLA links to the original object on the actual content provider’s website.

Content providers are either service or content hubs.

Content Hubs

The content hubs are large digital libraries, museums, archives, or repositories that maintain a one-­to-­one relationship with the DPLA. Content hubs provide more than 250,000 unique metadata records that resolve to digital objects (online texts, photographs, manuscript material, art work, etc.) to the DPLA, and commit to maintaining and editing those records as needed.

As of December 2013, the content hubs include the following institutions:

  • ARTstor
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • David Rumsey Map Collection
  • Harvard Library
  • HathiTrust Digital Library
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • New York Public Library
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign
  • University of Southern California libraries
  • University of Virginia

Service Hubs

Conversely, service hubs are state or regional digital libraries that aggregate information about digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions within its given state or region. Each service hub offers its state or regional partners a full menu of standardized digital services, including digitization, metadata assistance and training, data aggregation and storage services, as well as locally hosted community outreach programs, bringing users in contact with digital content of local relevance.

As of December 2013, DPLA’s service hubs include the following institutions:

  • Digital Commonwealth (Massachusetts)
  • Digital Library of Georgia
  • Empire State Digital Network (New York)
  • Kentucky Digital Library
  • Minnesota Digital Library
  • Mountain West Digital Library (Utah, Nevada, Southern Idaho, Arizona)
  • North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
  • Portal to Texas History
  • South Carolina Digital Library

Here’s an analogy to help visualize the service hub relationship: Imagine your local historical society or public library as a pond, containing unique cultural content. Ponds send their content through tributaries to lakes, the service hubs, which aggregate data from the various cultural heritage institutions across their state or region, the ponds. The service hubs then feed this content through rivers to the ocean, the DPLA.

Pond             –>                           Lakes                              –> Ocean

Local public library –> Service hubs like Digital Commonwealth –> DPLA



A unique characteristic of DPLA is it also acts as a platform that enables users to creative new and transformative uses of digitized cultural material. With an application programming interface (API) and maximally open data, the DPLA can be used by software developers, researchers, and others to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and apps.

Through the DPLA’s powerful, open API, developers can build tools, programs, widgets, and plug­-ins.

(An API is a set of routines, protocols, and digital tools for building software applications. A good API makes it easier for a developer to create an application that makes use of a particular set or sets of data by providing all the building blocks needed to integrate into his or her design. For example, Twitter releases its API to the public so that other software developers can design products that are powered by its service.)

The DPLA App Library contains applications built by independent developers interested in seeing what open cultural heritage data can look like in different contexts.

OpenPics, for example, is an open source iOS application for viewing images from multiple remote sources, including the DPLA API.

Culture Collage is another simple tool that lets you search the DPLA’s image archives and view the results in a stream of images. Just keep scrolling to fetch more. You can click on an image to save it to a scrapbook without losing your position in the stream.

image of Jaena Rae Cabrera

Jaena Rae Cabrera

So far, being a DPLA community rep has been pretty low maintenance, but it is still in the early stages of the program. This post is really my first foray into community outreach for DPLA, although I am looking in to doing presentations or webinars for local library branches. I think it would also be fun to view and use the DPLA through a variety of lenses and information uses. It has so many different access points that the results could be pretty fascinating. On Twitter, I also plan to start posting interesting APA finds with the hashtag #DPLAfinds.

In future posts, I will explore DPLA’s access to APA collections via its different search options. If you have used DPLA for research before, please feel free to share your experiences with me at jaenarae@gmail.com, or tweet me @jaenarae with the hashtag #DPLAfinds. Please feel free to contact me with any more specific queries about DPLA, or if you might be interested in a webinar or presentation. 


Editing assistance provided by Alyssa Jocson.

Nominations for APALA Elections Due March 4

Nominations for APALA Elections Due March 4


We are still looking for nominees for the upcoming APALA elections! Please contact any member of the Nominations Committee to nominate yourself or a colleague for an APALA Executive Board position. The deadline is Tuesday, March 4 at 11:59pm PST, so do it now!


APALA Nominations Committee 2013-2014

Jade Alburo, Chair (jalburo@library.ucla.edu)

Sandy Wee (wee@scml.org)

Florante Ibañez (florante.ibanez@lls.edu)


APALA needs you!


APALA is looking for a few good people to run for office. Please consider nominating yourself or a colleague for:


  • Vice President/President Elect (3-year commitment)
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Member at Large (two to be elected; 2-year commitment)


Attendance at ALA Annual and Midwinter Conferences is expected. Nominees must be members in good standing. Officer terms will begin at the close of the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. For more information about the available offices, see the APALA bylaws: http://www.apalaweb.org/about/constitution-and-bylaws/.


The committee will accept nominations through Tuesday, March 4 at 11:59pm PST. Voting will be open March 19-April 15, 2014.


Please note that in order to vote in the election, you must be an APALA member in good standing on March 1, 2014.


Feel free to contact any member of the Nominations Committee with your nomination(s) or if you have any questions!




Member Highlights Showcase — Miriam Tuliao

Miriam Tuliao is currently the Assistant Director of Selection at BookOps, the shared technical services organization for The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library.  She received her Master’s in Library Science degree from Pratt Institute.

Miriam joined APALA in 2010 and is a member of the Publications/Newsletter and Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature committees.

Of her cultural heritage and background, she writes:

I am Filipino. I was born in the United States and lived in Manila for eight years as a child.

When asked about the satisfaction she derives from her professional position as a librarian, Miriam said she is invested in her work and in honoring mentors who help others in their library careers.

I am privileged to currently work on a team that helps develop collections for 150 neighborhood libraries across the four boroughs of New York City: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. The group is deeply committed to supporting the mission and enjoys the daily challenge of meeting library users’ diverse needs.

I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors throughout my library career. A few years back, I set a personal goal of honoring and publicly thanking at least one mentor every year through a fundraiser swim for ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship. Training for the annual swim is both my “utang ng loob” and raison d’être.

Thank you for all you do for APALA, Miriam!


Article written by Jaena Rae Cabrera, with editing assistance by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood.

APALA Sponsors Archive Image in Honor of Former President

Small image of "Portrait of Dalip Singh Saund"

Portrait of Dalip Singh Saund

APALA is proud to sponsor the South Asian American Digital Archive‘s (SAADA) “Portrait of Dalip Singh Saund” in honor of APALA founder and first president Dr. Sharad Karkhanis, who passed away last March. (Dalip Singh Saund was the first Asian American/Indian American elected to Congress, in addition to being its first member of a non-Abrahamic faith.)

For more information on sponsoring an item from SAADA, please see http://www.saadigitalarchive.org/sponsor.

School Library Journal Writes About Talk Story

Oh look! The School Library Journal recently did a write-up on the history and goals of Talk Story, the joint cultural identity and family literacy program of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and the American Indian Library Association (AILA).

Article: ‘Talk Story,’ Sharing American Indian and Asian American Culture at the Library, School Library Journal (Feb 6, 2014)


APA Author Interview — Nina Revoyr, Los Angeles, Calif.

Bridging Communities of Color Through Nina Revoyr’s Fiction

by Ann Matsushima Chiu

 Ann Matsushima Chiu (AMC): Please introduce yourself and briefly describe your literary work and career path to date.

Nina Revoyr (NR): I’ve published four novels and am well into my fifth. On the surface, the books are all very different. The first two (“The Necessary Hunger” and “Southland”) are set in urban, inner-city Los Angeles; the third (“The Age of Dreaming”) is set in Little Tokyo and Hollywood during the silent film era; and the fourth (“Wingshooters”) takes place in rural Wisconsin. I try to do something new and maybe surprising with each book—if I’m not at least a little nervous about tackling a new project, I’m probably not pushing myself hard enough.

I also have a full life outside of writing. I’m the Executive Vice President of Children’s Institute, Inc., which is a large nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that serves children and families affected by trauma and poverty. I’ve also been a visiting professor at several colleges and universities—most recently Occidental College here in L.A.

As for libraries, it’s a big concern that there have been so many cuts—in California there are libraries being consolidated, having hours cut, being closed altogether. And libraries are not just places to get books; they are vital parts of communities. I would not be the writer I am without libraries.

Book cover of "Southland" by Nina Revoyr. Image courtesy of Akashic Books.

Book cover of “Southland” by Nina Revoyr. Image courtesy of Akashic Books.

AMC: Please describe your work and any associated goals you may have for each.

NR: Although all my books are different, they do have some things in common. With each book, I try to tell stories that haven’t been told before. Often this includes writing not just about communities of color, but also about how those communities interact with each other—like the Japanese American and African American characters in “The Necessary Hunger” and “Southland.” Or about people in unexpected or unusual situations—like the Japanese silent film star in “The Age of Dreaming.” Several of the books are also set in the past and could be considered historical, and two of them have a noir-ish flavor. No matter what the setting or structure is, though, I always try to create strong characters and tell good stories. I want to write books that people enjoy reading. By virtue of who the characters are and the situations I put them in, I hope to compel readers to think about issues of race, community, love, family, the things we have in common, and the things that make us different. I hope to complicate and deepen what we think we know about people. But none of that can happen if I don’t do the fundamental thing first—create characters whose stories readers care about, and want to read.

AMC: How does your own personal diversity influence your writing? The diversity of your readership?

NR: I’m diverse in a number of ways, and I don’t easily fit in pre-determined boxes. I’m a mixed-race Japanese American who was born in Japan, and whose family is still largely there. I then lived in rural Wisconsin in a very homogeneous white environment. From there I moved to Los Angeles, and lived in an area that was largely African American and Latino. I’m gay. Because of all this, my own life—and the stories I write—don’t necessary jibe with expected experiences or narratives. I have been deeply shaped by all of those contexts—Japanese, blue-collar white, Japanese American, urban black and Latino. I feel enriched by all of them. So the worlds I write about—

image of book cover for The Age of Dreaming

Book cover for “The Age of Dreaming” by Nina Revoyr. Image courtesy of Akashic Books.

like the worlds I live in—reflect these different influences and mixtures. One of the reasons I love the Crenshaw area—the community at the heart of “Southland”—is because of this very organic, not-forced mixture of people from different races and cultures, and particularly the deep ties between the African American and Japanese American residents. The settings I feel most comfortable in are multi-racial settings, with people who have all sorts of backgrounds, experiences, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientations. And yet I can and do move in more mono-racial settings as well. The readers of my first few books were largely people of color and progressive whites. With “Wingshooters,” though, the readership expanded. In addition to the folks who’d read the other books, there was a really large response from white readers, particularly Midwestern readers, some who were very different from me politically—very conservative. I met many of them during my book tour, and it was truly wonderful and humbling. I think the working class white characters in that book—and the ways I portrayed how people grapple with race—allowed readers to have discussions about race and community they might not have had otherwise.

AMC: What has writing taught you? 

NR: A lot! It’s taught me patience and faith—the belief that doing work in increments, but doing it consistently, will eventually lead to a larger good. It’s taught me the importance of enjoying the process itself, because you never know what will happen once a book is published in terms of response, or if it will be published at all. It’s taught me that—despite what you often hear from teachers of writing—inspiration is just as important as perspiration. Maybe even more so. Without passion, without vision, without a reason to write, it doesn’t matter how much time you put in: the writing itself will be flat. Writing has also taught me to really look at the world—to observe and enjoy it, to appreciate what it has to offer. And it’s made me live in a fuller way, too. Writing is wonderful, and I love it, but sometimes sitting at my desk can’t compete with a gorgeous sunrise or a hike through the mountains or even a football game. And that’s fine. It’s a big wonderful world out there, and I like to be in it.

AMC: What advice would you give librarians and information professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who work with diverse populations, promote literacy and readership?

Book cover of "Wingshooters" by Nina Revoyr. Image courtesy of Akashic Books.

Book cover of “Wingshooters” by Nina Revoyr. Image courtesy of Akashic Books.

NR: I’d say, share what you love. Your enthusiasm is contagious. And also draw connections for readers. A potential reader might think, well, the characters in this book are of a different background than me, so I won’t connect with them. The librarian—or the independent bookseller, or the book group leader, or the teacher—can help make those links for people. Readers—especially those who are fairly new or who haven’t been exposed to a lot of fiction—sometimes need a translator or a tour guide. And you’d be surprised at the results. I’m thinking, for example, of a program we did through my agency, a variation of the National Endowment for the Arts “The Big Read” program in prisons. It was amazing to see how the young men connected with books like “The Call of the Wild” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.” They identified with Buck in “The Call of the Wild”—his fight for survival, his honor, the brutality of his world. And they identified—the guys!—with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” because of her pluck. They also all yearned for an Atticus, since so many of them didn’t have fathers. These are books that they might not have picked up on their own. But they did, with a teacher, and in some cases the young men changed their lives.

AMC: What current trends in publishing, reading habits, and distribution of library materials concern you the most? What thoughts do you have on these trends?

NR: Honestly, I don’t know enough about trends in publishing to speak much about them. But I can say that I’m blessed to be published by a great independent press that has always been very supportive of me. I keep hearing—as we all do—that reading is dead, that people’s attention spans are shot because of the Internet and constant connectivity. And yet book clubs and book festivals are doing better than ever, so I’m not sure how that computes. For me, the Internet is a mixed blessing—a great resource, but also a time suck. I actually disconnect completely when I write—I hole up in the mountains where there’s no cell phone reception and no Internet access for miles. Fortunately, those places still exist! As for libraries, it’s a big concern that there have been so many cuts—in California there are libraries being consolidated, having hours cut, being closed altogether. And libraries are not just places to get books; they are vital parts of communities. I would not be the writer I am without libraries. Library staff are my heroes—which is why I made one of the main characters in “The Age of Dreaming” the programming director at the L.A. Public Library.


Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera.

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