A clearinghouse for metadata records of objects and books from libraries, museums, and archives, the DPLA seeks to be the portal where end-users go first to search and access digital content. Conceived originally as an alternative to the Google Books project, the DPLA grew out of a project developed by the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society and has since its launch in 2012 succeeded in partnering with a number of major public and university libraries including the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, and the Harvard University Library. Importantly, the DPLA has also partnered with two large repositories of digital content, the Internet Archive and the Hathi Trust, which in addition to its own digital repository has a significant network of digital content partners including dozens of important public and private university libraries. As of December, 2013, the DPLA officially lists its collection of metadata records at five million.
The DPLA partners currently fall into two categories: Service Hub Partners and Content Hub partners. Service Hub Partners are "state or regional digital libraries that aggregate information about digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions within its given state or region." Content Hub Partners are "large digital libraries, museums, archives, or repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA... providing more than 250,000 unique metadata records that resolve to digital objects (online texts, photographs, manuscript material, art work, etc.)."
As of December, 2013, a keyword search of the phrase "electronic literature" returned no results on the DPLA. While there are monographs related to electronic literature available via the DPLA, notably titles in the University of Michigan Press's Studies in Literature and Science Series available via the Hathi Trust, there are currently no records of electronic literary works in the DPLA catalog.
A nonprofit organization, the DPLA is funded by grants from both the U.S. government and private foundations. There has been some controversy regarding the decision by the DPLA to name itself The Digital Public Library of America since, according to the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the DPLA is not and was never intended to replace the 16,000 branch libraries that currently exist. However, to date, by focusing on partnerships and positioning itself as a data aggregator rather than a repository, the DPLA may be able to continue growing its metadata collection and its partner network without being perceived as a threat to the funding and existence of branch libraries.