Boatbuilding and Rabbit Stew: DPLA Use Cases

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By Jessica Keyes

DPLA BoxesThe Digital Public Library of America initiative, launched 2010, held a meeting of their Audience and Participation Workstream on July 27, 2012 at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The DPLA is a national initiative to create digital library where anyone can search for books, audio, images, and every kind of media, from sources all over the country, all in one place. It will provide creative tools to enhance use of the content, for example, to create annotations and curated resource lists. It will also include a community platform for researchers, students, experts, and learners of all backgrounds can share their findings and exchange ideas.

About 25 innovative thinkers from across the country worked together to identify functionality that the DPLA will need to have in order to meet the needs of its users. The meeting was very productive, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute my thoughts on homepage and application design during the small-group breakout sessions.

Co-chair Nate Hill of Chattanooga Public Library prepared stories for a set of hypothetical DPLA visitors, describing the kinds of research and sharing they might want to do. “Use cases” are a common tool used by software developers to try and understand how real people will interact with the product, and to try to anticipate the user needs during the early phases of development.

Venn Diagram DPLAThe group dove in by approaching each hypothetical user individually and by sorting them into categories based on the kinds of work they want to do. The DPLA will have space for performing research at a variety of levels, for the addition of user-generated content, and for community participation and exchange. Different tasks draw on each of these spaces in different ways, and the discussion allowed us to think about specific functionality to propose to the Technical Aspects Workstream.

We really started to tackle the functionality after lunch by considering what kind of interface a visitor would need to interact with in order to complete a given task. For example, “Darla” is an expert on historical boatbuilding and restoration, and she was looking for high resolution images of boat design plans from around the world, representing different historical periods. Using the application we sketched out, she was able to find the images, annotate them, and share and discuss them with other experts in her field.

When DPLA is launched next year, it will represent a massive leap forward for the advocates of free and open access to information. With the participation of partner institutions from across America, every person will have the ability to find documents, objects, records, music, images, and more from one site, using state-of-the-art technology.

Find the DPLA on Twitter at @DigPubLib and follow the conversation at #dpla.

Here is the recording of our afternoon session, which streamed live from the event.

Skip to 2:00 to see me present on our "Darla" app.
Video streaming by Ustream.

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