Library Observatory goes live!

In conjunction with the launch of the DPLA, metaLAB at Harvard is pleased to share Library Observatory, a web-native graphical search tool for discovering the DPLA’s growing collection of millions of digital books, images, maps, and archival treasures. It’s available at libraryobservatory.org, as well as through the DPLA’s App Library.

The DPLA Library Observatory enables users to browse the collections of the DPLA, learn how those collections relate to each other, and find resources of particular interest. Through a nested, interactive collections graph, the DPLA’s offerings are visualized by relative size, format, and type of object. Users can discern at a glance the scope and makeup of the DPLA’s growing repository, which includes the collections of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, ARTstor, and the Internet Archive’s Open Library. Find an item of interest, and a click takes the user to the original record at its home institution.

Library Observatory not only offers a novel search experience for the DPLA. It is also intended to help us understand how its collections of collections is put together, and how an initiative like the DPLA helps libraries, archives, and other institutions talk to one another, learn from one another, and make our common cultural heritage accessible and interoperable for all.

This graphic search tool is the first in a series of instruments for analysis and discovery that we’re planning for the Library Observatory. The app first took shape at the DPLA AppFest hosted in November 2012 at the Chattanooga Public Library; its ongoing development is supported by a DPLA Sprint grant.

We hope you’ll climb into the Library Observatory and use it to find great things. New features in design and functionality will be appearing in the weeks and months to come; any feedback you can offer us in this regard is welcome. We’re especially interested in places where the search trail runs cold—where data artifacts interrupt the flow of search and discovery—so we encourage you to let us know where you run into interesting, inscrutable, or erratic results. The easiest way to do that is by taking a screenshot of the result and posting it to our library observatory tumblr, or get in touch with us directly at metaLAB.