Digital Public Library of America: hub for research built by Crown Heights resident - Brooklyn


Feb. 11, 2014 12:17 pm

Digital Public Library of America: hub for research built by Crown Heights resident

The Digital Public Library or America's first Director of Technology lives in Crown Heights.

Mark Matienzo, Director of Technology, Digital Public Library of America

Photo by Brady Dale.

The Empire State Digital Network is one of the newest partners contributing digital materials from across New York State to the Digital Public Library of America [DPLA].

DPLA is a library, archive and historical society digital aggregator, aiming to give the world open and free access to the rich content of America’s information institutions. We learned about this new partnership from Mark Matienzo, the person in charge of its technological architecture, a resident of several years in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

The Empire State Digital Network will be a service hub. The first phase of New York materials to enter the system will come from  New York HeritageHudson River Valley HeritagedigitalMETRO and Long Island Memories.

Matienzo, DPLA’s Director of Technology, walked us through the mission and history of the DPLA and why he joined its team of seven this past December.

“I wanted to work on something that was definitely aligned with my personal outlook,” said Matienzo. “It’s a project that I think, regardless of where you see yourself on the political spectrum, most people think it’s a good idea to provide free and open access to library materials in particular.”

Matienzo is a trained archivist and librarian, but he taught himself software development on the job and has done some dev work at each of his jobs for the last several years. As its first director of tech, he’s working to bring DPLA’s development in house.

Thus far, it’s been built on a contract basis.

“Part of what I’m here to do is to develop a technology staff to take over from the contractors, and to align that staff with the strategic goals of the organization,” he said.


Right now, the DPLA is working as a sort of portal to other libraries, also helping with digitizing materials and standardizing the data about them. DPLA has built an audience as a resource hub and then when users find what they want, DPLA links to its partner organizations.

Some other directions we may see DPLA go in the future or have begun recently, according to Matienzo, include:

  • A community representative program. Enlisting people nationwide to help spread the word about DPLA, draw in new users, new collections and help people understand what’s available. Representatives will be equipped with DPLA swag and pre-prepared slidedecks to prep presentations. 
  • Electronic books. The organization is still discussing the best way to approach its role in ebooks, but understands that this is an evolving issue (as we know).
  • More exhibitions, in collaboration with its partners.
  • DPLA is doing everything open source and opening up its API as much as possible. It looks forward to software developers taking advantage of its resources to build interesting new tools and applications of their data.
  • The semantic web. The tech team at DPLA is interested in link data and ways the library can use its own link data in a way that benefits information users.

Most of the DPLA staff work from an office in Boston, but a few, like Matienzo, work remotely. Looking forward, Matienzo hopes to convince the tech community to see itself as a stakeholder in the online library, saying “I’m really hoping I can start to do more outreach to the tech community, to get people excited about what we’re doing and get people’s critical feedback about what they think we should be doing.”

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