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Overview: Digital Libraries: By Location

Digital libraries can be organized by the locations they serve. While some are international or national projects, others are organized at the state or regional level.

This page will explore digital libraries in the following categories: Massive Digital Libraries, National Libraries, State Projects, Regional Projects, and Others.

Massive Digital Libraries


Massive digital libraries play an essential role in the transformation of libraries. Most other libraries make use of the resources developed and organized by these huge libraries. These are global-scale projects.

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It's important for you to be familiar with all of the massive digital libraries listed below. Explore their websites. Read their ABOUT pages. Notice how the materials are acquired and accessed.

The Digital Public Library of America focuses on developing relationships with partner institutions rather than digitizing materials themselves. They work toward developing user-friendly interfaces to make digital objects more accessible to library users. Their website contains exhibitions, as well as the ability to explore by place and date. Many apps have been developed to facilitate use of the collections. Over 10 million objects can currently be accessed.

Read Digital Public Library of America (2015). Strategic Plan 2015-2017. Available online.
Notice the many partners that work together to make this project a success.

Founded in 2008, Europeana is the European Union's digital library with nearly 60 million objects when you include all the images, texts, audio, video, and others.

Started in 2004, Google Books has dozens of partners including many major universities. They have scanned over 30 million unique titles. Google has been engaged in court battles for the past ten years regarding copyright issues. Many errors have been found in metadata related to their digital objects. Google provides levels of access to its resources.

Founded in 2008, HathiTrust was founded with the cooperation of thirteen universities and includes over 60 research libraries. It's pronounced "hah-tee" trust. They have digitized a total of nearly 14 million volumes. Of these, 39% are in the public domain.

Begun in 1996, the Internet Archive is a free, public access digital library containing over 13 million digital objects including text, images, audio, video and other materials. Their WayBack Machine has archived over 400 million web pages. Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive. It makes over 1 million free ebook titles available. Internet Archive partners with many groups to make their resources available online. One of the advantages of this digital library is that it links to many others large projects. It also contains lots of audio and video.

Open Content Alliance isn't really a digital library. Like the Digital Public Library of America, it coordinates content. It contains 23 million book records (although full-text is not available for all books) including those housed at Internet Archive and Open Library. One of it's main goals is to provide access for those with disabilities.

Many projects involve innovative collaborations. For instance, OpenEBooks is "a partnership between Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, and First Book, with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor. "

National Libraries

nationalCountries around the world have developed high-quality national libraries and archives. Many of their resources are available through online collections.

In the United States, be sure to explore:

Outside the United States, explore:

For a list of other National Libraries and their websites, go to Wikipedia.

State Projects


Many states provide digital library services. These generally include a mixture of subscription-based services along with state-specific resources and services. While some of these online services call themselves "digital libraries", others use terms such as virtual library or online library to describe themselves. In most cases, users enter their local public library card number to access subscription-services.

From local newspapers to historical photographs, many of these state programs provide access to a wide range of digital collections focusing on state-specific information.

In most cases, links are provided to the state library, state archives, and state digitization projects.

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Select three states. Compare and contrast their approaches to digital libraries and their specific information sources and services. Be sure to look at their subscription databases, digital collections, and statewide online services. Also, can you tell what software they use for their digital collections? Do they have any partners? Can you tell if there's collaboration among the state library, archives, museums, universities, historical societies, or other groups?


Regional Projects


Across the United States, organizations are collaborating on regional projects.

The Mountain West Digital Library is a "central search portal for digital collections about the Mountain West region". This collection provides access to nearly a million resources from universities, colleges, public libraries, museums, historical societies and government agencies across the western states. Users can search all items. Or, they can browse by digital collection or digital library partner. Mountain West Digital Library contains searchable metadata for these shared collections.

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Browse the Mountain West Digital Library. Then, explore the shared collections. Think about the cooperative relationship between the MWDL and it's partners.

Explore some other examples below:



otherBesides those digital libraries tied to a particular location, there are many other project-based collections to explore.

For more ideas and contacts, go to the Digital Library Federation. Check out the member libraries.

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