One of the things mentioned at the DPLA lecture I went to was that it is envisioned as a complimentary service to public libraries, not an attempt to replace them. For those few folks that don’t have an internet connection (for they must still be some holdouts, voluntary or not) or for those books that have no digital incarnation, a digital library cannot fully replace a brick and mortar one. For those reasons and a myriad more, the DPLA should, and does envision itself as a way to help improve public libraries’ offerings. As The Fates would have it, I recently ran into a great example of how this could be realized.
In March, the GSLIS book club book was Maryanne Wolf’s Proust an the Squid. Being strapped for cash, I decided a library would be the place to go for my copy. But, naturally, the copy at the Simmons Library was scooped up, posthaste. Ok, says I, no problem I’ll just scoot on over to the Minuteman Library Network’s OPAC and see if that have it. None of the 42 libraries that make up network had the book available.Blast! So I put on my thinking cap (which is a beanie with a pinwheel in case you’re interested) and I perused the library list to see my other options. I noticed that the Boston Public Library wasn’t included in the 42. And here I thought 42 was THE answer! (No Douglas Adams fans out there?)
So I searched the Boston Public Library catalog the didn’t have it either. Drat! Foiled again! I was just about to go find another Library Network when I realized my unfamiliarity with the BPL OPAC gave me a false negative. Squished in a different place from where I’d find it in the Minuteman Library Network OPAC was an option to search other libraries in the network. And wouldn’t you know it, good ol’Malden has it!
So, with a little digital elbow grease I was able to find the book. A good thing, too, the book was outstanding! However, I couldn’t help but think a portal page in which diverse Library Networks could be brought together under the umbrella of a single Uber-OPAC. If the DPLA is designed the way I think it will be, then had it been available at the outset of my quest I would have just plugged my search into their page and they would have told me I needed to go to Malden. Sometimes the best things are new ideas but rather connection two already good ideas.