Frequently Asked Questions about ipl2

It’s nice to know that so many people are curious about our work. Here are some of the most common questions we get, and our best answers to date. If you have a question which you don’t see here, send it along to our Contact Us form.

What is the IPL?
A good question. The IPL is many things:

  • the first public library of and for the Internet community
  • an experiment, trying to discover and promote the most effective roles and contributions of librarians to the Internet and vice versa
  • a group of highly talented, creative, strong-willed people, working hard

What is its mission and vision?
See our Mission and Vision Statements.

How did it get started?
The IPL began in a graduate seminar in the School of Information and Library Studies at the University of Michigan in the Winter 1995 semester. The idea was twofold: (1) to ask some interesting and important questions about the interconnections of libraries, librarians, and librarianship with a distributed networked environment, and (2) to learn a lot about these issues by actually designing and building something called the Internet Public Library.

From a large pool of interested students, a group of 35 was selected to make up the class. Work began on January 5, 1995, and the Library opened on March 17, 70 days later.

Are you a student project? Can I participate?
Yes and no. As mentioned above, we began as a project in a graduate course, but the IPL is now an established, enduring (we hope!) entity, that includes a small full-time paid staff. At the same time, there are always students and others working on special and ongoing projects for us, and we are committed to the use of the IPL as a venue for students as well as professionals in the field to learn more about librarianship and the Internet and the intersections between them. We invite interested people to contact us to inquire further about collaborations and joint work.

Why did you call it a "public library"?
It was the only library metaphor that seemed to fit. "The Internet Library" didn’t have the right oomph, and none of the other types of libraries (academic, special, school, ...) seemed to capture the right feeling. From the beginning, the three words were seen to have equal standing in the vision of the project: Internet, Public, and Library.

A word on metaphors: We adopted the library and building metaphor unconsciously and naturally. Almost every member of the founding group was in the School of Information and Library Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (we had 2 refugees from the College of Engineering), so the more we made this feel like "real" libraries, the easier the work and the thinking about it got. A couple of people have told us they think this metaphor inapt or even harmful, but the majority of comments on this score have been positive.

Are you trying to replace traditional libraries?
No, no, no, no, no! Far from it. (At least several of us want to work in libraries some day.) What we are trying to do is explore what the rich history and intellectual traditions of librarianship have to offer the dynamic but, let’s admit it, chaotic world of the Internet. Librarians have tried for a few hundred years to make sense of the world of information and knowledge stored in physical media...why not try to find out what we can do with digital media?

There are many things which real libraries can offer their communities that we can’t or won’t: information and services specific to a particular geographic community, a comfy place to curl up with a book, a physical meeting and socializing place, a focus for community attention. We can do things they can’t. Let’s work together and see what happens.

Can I link to the IPL? How should I do that?
We welcome and encourage links from individuals and organizations with presences on the Web. Please see our Linking to the IPL page for more details.

Can I reproduce one of your pages or images for a book or article or CD-ROM?
We similarly encourage journalists, writers, and others to include discussions of the IPL in their work. Please refer to our policy on reproduction of our pages and images for further details.

Why these services? Why not something else, or more?
The services you see are the result of interests among the people who have built and worked on the library, and reflects their interests, skills, and expertise. The only mandatory service was a story hour (directorial privilege); everything else was decided by consensus and interest. We had many other ideas, but limited time and resources have forced us to choose, and this is what we have chosen, so far.

Who runs the IPL?
Meet our staff here.

Can you tell me more?
There have been many articles and papers written about the IPL. You can find a listing of the ones that we know about on the IPL Press Clippings Bibliography page.

How can I become a member of the IPL Consortium?
If you are a representative and/or faculty member from a library and/or information science department at a college or university, please see our Members, Partners, and Sponsors page for more information.

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