NC libraries put content online

Digital content from more than 100 institutions across North Carolina is now available to the entire world at the click of a mouse, and UNC is helping make it happen.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, located in Wilson Library, will represent North Carolina in the Digital Public Library of America, and will serve as the state’s sole service hub on the site.

Launched in April, the DPLA is a nonprofit organization that provides free access to collections of information from some of the largest libraries and archives across the nation. The project aims to serve as a national archive of cultural and academic materials.

Michelle Underhill, director of digital information management for the State Library of North Carolina, said she is excited that collections of information from North Carolina will now reach a wide audience.

“A primary advantage is bringing all different collections and information from across the state together and making it searchable collectively with other institutions, such as Harvard and the Smithsonian,” she said.

Underhill thinks the database will perform a practical function by serving as an educational tool.

“North Carolina played a large part in the civil rights movement, for instance, and those gems of information that we have in these collections across the state will reach a broader audience of educators and students across other states,” she said.

So far more than 123,000 digital items from North Carolina have been included in the DPLA. The collection currently houses 5 million items from roughly 1,000 institutions — a number that will only increase.

The DPLA aims to work with one organization per state so that library materials from each state can be accessed across the country and around the world, said Nicholas Graham, program coordinator for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

Graham said the center was a natural choice to represent North Carolina in the national digital library because it pulls content from more than 100 institutions across the state in many different forms, such as yearbooks, maps, photographs, manuscripts and newspapers.

“Part of UNC’s mission is to serve people at institutions all over North Carolina, and it is important to us to help especially smaller libraries to share their content,” he said.

And this project comes at no additional cost because the library is using existing staff and resources, said Graham.

Gary Marchionini, dean of UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, said he views information as intellectual energy that is captured in forms such as books, databases, websites and blog postings.

“(DPLA) will lead to people having access to and being able to use better information resources, and what better resource to use than a major world-class library like UNC’s to share this amazing content that we have here.”

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