May 24, 2022

Harvard Library Innovation Lab Launches StackLife, A Unique Way to Browse, Read Digital Public Library of America Books

Note: The DPLA prototype goes live at Noon on Thursday. 

From the Harvard Library Innovation Lab:

At its launch this week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is featuring StackLife DPLA as an example of how the DPLA’s collection of books can be mashed up with other collections and browsed in highly innovative ways.

StackLife DPLA, launched today by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, lets users find and freely read 1.7 million books from the DPLA, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive’s Open Library.

StackLife DPLA enables users to browse via scrollable virtual shelves that cluster—and can instantly re-cluster—books based on their multiple subject areas. With a click, a user can read the book online.

The depth of color of a book on a StackLife DPLA shelf indicates how often a work has been read. The length of that image of the book indicates how long ago it was published and its thickness indicates how many pages are in it.

“StackLife DPLA is wonderful example of the power of the approach we’ve taken,” said Dan Cohen, executive director of the DPLA. “It demonstrates that an independent group, such as the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, can put our collection to new and unanticipated uses. We are thrilled with the result.”

StackLife DPLA extends a version of StackLife created for the Harvard Library, adding social features and including only works that are readable online. The Harvard version lets users browse more than 12 million physical and digital items in the Harvard collection, and includes tools of use to a research community. Both versions are Open Source projects.

StackLife DPLA was supported by a DPLA Sprint grant.

A Bit More About What’s Available As of Today

The three collections currently mashed together in StackLife are: the 107,990 items from the Biodiversity Heritage Library that are in the DPLA’s collection, 541,305 volumes from theInternet Archive‘s Open Library, and 1,094,245 volumes from The Hathi Trust. We are huge fans of all three of these organizations, each of which is devoted to making works of culture, heritage and science openly available to the world.

If you decide to register (not required) you’ll be able to leave comments about books and/or create your own bookshelf.

Direct to StackLife for the DPLA

Direct to Stack Life FAQ
A very interesting and useful FAQ.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.