As a community rep for the Digital Public Library of America, one of my main roles is to get the word out about this amazing portal for research and learning. I came upon it as part of some reading I was doing about libraries in preparation for a presentation to a regional librarians’ group here in the state.
John Palfrey, author of BiblioTech, was one of the founders. His book was a rallying cry for libraries in general to continue to offer traditional services even as they find ways to expand their outreach and create learning centers for communities.
The Digital Public Library of America site is a thoughtful and powerful example of how we can use computers and networks to pull together disparate data in easily accessible–and sometimes quirky–ways. I wrote about the DPLA earlier this year, having fun with the search by color function.
The DPLA are actively curating materials for teachers and students as part of their primary source sets. The sets are designed to help students in grades 6-12 and college develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. The sets are diverse in topics and people with collections related to everything from poets like Maya Angelou to the lives of women in the Civil War. In one of those lovely little serendipitous web events, I was surprised to find a set of materials organized around Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a book I just finished reading. The book is autobiographical and the materials, including excerpts from an interview with Alexie and photos of the Spokane Indian reservation, help provide some connections for readers. We tend to think about the reservation system as something in the past: Alexie’s book and these primary source documents remind us that many Native Americans still live on reservations, struggling to find the balance that Junior, Alexie’s hero, describes so eloquently with his own words and comics.