Timeline of ipl History – About ipl

Timeline of ipl/IPL History

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The first version of this timeline was created for the IPL’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2005. A more interactive version of this timeline was created on June 16, 2008. The IPL decided to cease updating this interactive version on April 27, 2009.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of December 31, 2011


eReader Resources

April 2011

In April, we added a new special collection to ipl: a collection of resources on eReaders. Topics covered were eReader Models, Software Applications, eReaders for Kids, Digital Rights Management and eBook Formats, Reviews and Comparisons, eBook Libraries, and more.

100,000 Reference Questions Answered

April 2011

By April, our reference service answered 100,000 questions.

ALA Carnegie-Whitney Grant Awarded

February 2011

In February, ipl was awarded the American Library Association’s Carnegie-Whitney Award for its proposal, “Infusing Innovation in rural libraries: An Annotated List of Electronic and Print Resources exploring the digital and mobile divide and investigating solutions.” The proposal, in short, was to create and place this annotated list of resources on ipl.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of December 31, 2010


Mobile Apps Project

November 29, 2010

The ipl Mobile Apps Project is an initiative to direct our patrons to free mobile applications. Mobile applications are tools on certain mobile phones that directly connect the user to a particular internet location. There are thousands of mobile applications available. Sorting through them can be tedious and time consuming! The Mobile Apps Project seeks to resolve this problem by categorizing free mobile apps by subject and mobile technology platform. This News & Current Events pathfinder lists available free iphone and android apps from resources such as newspapers, weather internet sites, television, magazines and many other media sources. These apps can be accessed one of two ways: either through the mobile phone itself, or through the link provided in the chart. Check out this pathfinder!

For Love of Liberty Special Collection added!

October 22, 2010

Initially airing February 2010, For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots is a PBS documentary that details the military contributions of African Americans. Realizing the educational significance of the film, the U.S. Army created an edited 25-minute version of the film and corresponding high school and college facilitator guides. The materials, structured to fit a classroom timeframe, are versatile and can compliment studies in American history, civics, social studies and ROTC programs. ipl was asked by a representative of United Solutions and Services, LLC., to continue offering these materials after funding from the U.S. Army for hosting these materials at their original site (http://www.forloveofliberty.net/) ran out on September 30, 2010. See the videos and guides!

The ipl institute

March 15 and March 16, 2010

On March 17, 2010, the ipl (Internet Public Library) celebrated 15 years of innovation, service, and research. In conjunction with this event, The iSchool at Drexel hosted the Institute on the Future of Reference and its Impact on Library and Information Science Education on March 15-16, 2010. The institute was part of the IMLS grant Transforming the IPL into a Virtual Learning Laboratory. Faculty, students and staff from Drexel University, Florida State University, The University of Washington, The University of Illinois, The University of North Carolina, Syracuse University, and the Free Library of Philadelphia participated in the institute. Additionally, in honor of this moment in the ipl’s history, two special open presentations on the future of reference and its impact on the future of library and information science education were given. These presentations were streamed live on video, with information also reported live on the ipl blog, Second Life, and Twitter. Learn more about this event.

Launch of "ipl: Information You Can Trust"

January 1, 2010

A new era was ushered in when the "ipl: Information You Can Trust" website was launched. The ipl was a merger of the Internet Public Library (IPL) and Librarians’ Internet Index (LII) websites. On the new ipl site, the IPL’s KidSpace and TeenSpace sections were respectively renamed For Kids and For Teens. Watch a video about the launch!


Total Reference Questions Answered as of December 31, 2009


ipl’s Newsletter is Born!

December 28, 2009

ipl’s newsletter, The Link: The Official Newsletter of ipl, is first published on this day on the ipl’s WordPress blog. The LII’s “New This Week” newsletter had been a proud tradition we wanted to continue on ipl. The first newsletter provided resources in ipl on timely topics for the month of January 2010.

IPL 15 Things

September 8, 2009

In honor of the IPL’s 15th birthday on March 17, 2010, the IPL launched the IPL 15 Things. A wiki page on the IPL Learning Community (LC) introduced 15 of our favorite online technologies, with background information, best practices, related readings, examples of how the IPL was using the technology, and hands-on exercises. The wiki page was “spotlighted” on the frontpage of the IPL, and this IPL webpage, https://www.ipl.org/15things, led to the IPL LC 15 Things wiki page. The first of our 15 Things was ‘Blogging’.

Rename the IPL (& LII) Contest!

April 27, 2009 – September 2, 2009

It had been decided that, in the fall of 2009, the Internet Public Library (IPL) would merge with the Librarians’ Internet Index (LII), which at the time was found at http://www.lii.org, to create a new web presence. The new website would also have a new name, and a contest was held. On this date, notices were placed on the IPL and the LII, as well as the IPL’s Facebook, MySpace, WordPress blog, and IPL Learning Community webpages. IPL and LII patrons could submit their suggestions for the new name via an online form. The contest ran until May 11. Here is the text for this announcement on the IPL website. The winning name was to be announced on May 18, but we received so many submissions that announcing a winner had to be postponed. Announcement of the postponement appeared on the IPL website on May 18, and on or around that date on the LII and the IPL’s Facebook, MySpace, WordPress blog, and Learning Community webpages. Results of the contest were announced on September 1-2, 2009 on the IPL & LII websites and on the IPL’s Facebook, MySpace, and WordPress blog pages.

Pathfinder Repository Created

April 20, 2009

The IPL decided to retire some of its Pathfinders, or research guides, and created this new section of the IPL to store them permanently.

IPL WordPress Blog Created

January 2009

A WordPress Blog is created for the IPL.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2008


New Collections at the IPL!

December 2008

These collections started appearing on the IPL in December of 2008, an official announcement went out over MySpace, Facebook, the IPL Blog, and the IPL’s Learning Community on February 16, 2009.

Goldstein Children’s Collection
A podcast library of audio and visual children’s stories, read aloud with colorful artworks from the books, from the Florida State University (FSU) College of Information Goldstein Library’s amazing collection of children’s books, many of which are out of copyright.
Created Fall, 2008, by students in Florida State University’s College of Information’s LIS5916 Virtual Reference Environments course taught by Dr. Lorri Mon.

Goldstein Lawson Collection (Original URL: https://www.ipl.org/div/gsteinlaw/)
Collection of art work in the Florida State University (FSU) College of Information Goldstein Library. Art work is by artist Robert Lawson who won Caldecott and Newberry Medals for writing and illustration.
Created Fall, 2008, by students in Florida State University’s College of Information’s LIS5916 Virtual Reference Environments course taught by Dr. Lorri Mon.

Podcasts (Original URL: https://www.ipl.org/div/pod/)
A selected list of podcasts on a range of topics, including how to create your own podcast. Subjects include law, books, food, travel, medicine, history, politics, business, and more.
Created Fall, 2008, by students in SI 596, Practical Engagement Workshop: Digital Librarianship, taught by Dr. Soo Young Rieh, at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Resources (Original URL: https://www.ipl.org/div/deaf/)
Online resources for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Created Fall, 2008, by Patti Lester, FSU Collection Development Intern.

IPL’s Library Locator

October 27, 2008

The IPL started to offer a page providing useful links for locating libraries called the Library Locator.

New Look for IPL’s Teen Poetry Wiki

October 26, 2008

The IPL’s Teen Poetry Wiki got a face lift.

LII and IPL to Merge; LII hosted at Drexel

October, 2008

Effective in October 2008, the Librarians’ Internet Index (LII) started to be hosted at the The iSchool at Drexel, College of Information Science and Technology with the intention of merging the LII with the IPL, two of the most widely used library-based technological resources connecting individuals, businesses and society with information.

IPL Reference Service Gets a New Name and a Logo

August 18, 2008

Ask an IPL LibrarianOn Monday, August 18, 2008, the Internet Public Library changed the name of its online reference service to “Ask an IPL Librarian” and put up a new logo to represent the service on the website. The new name and logo emphasized that librarians were the information experts providing the service. The logo, created by Kara Howland, Graphic Designer at The iSchool at Drexel University, also made the service more easily identifiable throughout the IPL’s website.

FARQs Become FAQs

June 23, 2008

On Monday, June 23, 2008, the IPL’s Frequently Asked Questions, or FARQs, webpages were renamed as Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs. Many FAQs were revised and updated to make them more useful both to our patrons and to our online reference service.

New Interactive Timeline of IPL History

June 16, 2008

A new interactive timeline of the history of the IPL was created! (The IPL decided to cease updating this version on 4/27/2009.)

Blogs Collection Merged into the Main IPL Subject Collections

April 2008

The IPL merged its blogs collections, formerly in static, harder-to-manage HTML code, into its MySQL Subject Collections database. Blogs can now be found within the IPL’s main Subject Collections and within their own separate Special Collection.

Web Technologies Collection

April 2008

The Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey, CA in October, 2007, was the impetus for expanding the IPL’s Net-Based Emerging Technologies Special Collection into a much larger collection of Web 2.0 widgets and technologies.

New IPL Search

Mar 31, 2008

At 9 a.m. EST, March 31, 2008, the new and improved improved version of the IPL’s own site search engine went live. The IPL’s new search now supported the use of quotes for exact phrase searching and the use of pluses (+) and minuses (-) to increase or decrease the importance of finding a particular term. Search results were presented in a simplified, conventional list format with quick access links to one or more related parts of the IPL.

The IPL’s new advanced search provided a choice between a more powerful version of the IPL’s new search, called “Traditional Advanced Search,” and the IPL’s “Grok It” search. The IPL’s “Traditional Advanced Search” allowed searching of the title, descriptions, and/or URLs of the links in the IPL’s primary database, and provided the option of searching for words or phrases contained or not contained in those fields. All of this was presented in a very simple and highly usable interface.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2007


New and Updated FARQs (now FAQs) and Pathfinders

December 2007

Our collections of Frequently Asked (Reference) Questions and Pathfinder research guides received new additions.

IPL Learning Community Goes Live

Fall 2007

The IPL Learning Community, hosted by Florida State University (FSU), goes live, and IPL students and staff start to use it.

IPL’s Facebook and MySpace Pages Created

Fall 2007

Students at by Florida State University (FSU) create the IPL’s Facebook and MySpace pages.


July 27, 2007

The IPL stakes a claim in the online virtual world known as Second Life and gets its own "tree" on Drexel University’s "island". Future development projects in Second Life begin to be explored.

An IMLS Grant!

July 1, 2007

The IPL has obtained a 3-year grant from IMLS to explore new ways of teaching and providing digital reference and librarianship and to move the IPL into a new era.

New Look for Stately Knowledge

May 2007

Kidspace’s Stately Knowledge underwent a facelift this year, its data was updated, and some of its content was modified. Aside from an improved look, an interactive map of the U.S. provides navigation from the homepage of the site. Drop-down menus allow you to navigate quickly between each state. Governors were updated, and the Size and Population Rankings were modified to include total, land, and water area for each state and to include population density as well as population. Finally, information particular to a state was set on 1 webpage rather than spread out over 2 webpages.

Updating POTUS Content

May, 2007

The IPL’s Presidents of the United States pages, created by Bob Summers, were with his permission thoroughly link checked and updated, with some user suggestions incorporated. The “On this day in POTUS history” feature was restored.

Improving Our Online Reference Service

Many improvements have been made behind the scenes to improve our online reference service. For one, our reference service is truly open all of the time now. We will not be closed at all during the year (unless due to technical problems, which should be very, very rare). We have been also revising our training materials and some of our policies to provide better answers via email to our patrons. We are currently engaged in a massive revision of our training manual for new students and volunteers. We have expanded our volunteer base, and we now have more reference administrators than ever due to a new shift structure allowing for more ref admins to participate. More ref admins means more questions answered and faster response time from us.

IPL Growth

The IPL continues to grow, not only by increasing the number of participating schools, students, and volunteers, but also by adding to its permanent administrative staff.

Spreading the Word

The IPL attended several professional librarian conferences this year, including those for the Pennsylvania School Library Association, New Jersey Library Association, Maryland Library Association, Delaware Library Association, Special Libraries Association held in Denver, and American Library Association held in Washington D.C., as well as workshops for the Public Library Management Institute at Austin Peay State University and a statewide workshop for Tennessee library managers at Brentwood Public Library.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2006


The IPL’s New Home!


The University of Michigan stops hosting the IPL and moves its servers and staff positions over to Drexel University. Rest easy, Wolverines! The University of Michigan does stay on as a major contributing partner, along with Florida State University.

Science Fair Project Guide

November 29

In response to the popularity of science resources on our site and the large number of science-related questions asked by IPL users, a group of students and staff investigated how we could improve our resources and reference service in this area. The group examined best practices for science education in libraries and other fields, science questions sent to our reference service, and the availability of science information on the Internet. With special thanks to Cathie Toschach, the Science Fair Project resource guide was completely redone, from layout to content and went up at the end of Novemeber.

IPL Consortium Begins


The University of Michigan hosts representatives from various “ischools”, colleges and universities with departments in library science and/or information science in an attempt to open up ownership of the IPL to a consortium.

Grokker Search Added to the IPL


The IPL implements a new way of searching its collections, using grokker’s search technology which provides a different way of clustering and visualizing search results.

TeenSpace Poetry Wiki


The TeenSpace Poetry Wiki, a place where teens can post and respond to other teens’ poetry, and the Graphic Novels Guide, a concise, informative guide to comic books and graphic novels, are added to TeenSpace.

The Lit Crit Collection is Back!


The Literary Criticism Collection freed from all technical issues, thanks to a lot of student effort. The Fall class work on updating the Literary Criticism collection.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2005




Throughout the year, the IPL worked with Mike Elledge, a Usability Consultant then at the University of Michigan and now Assistant Director of the Usability and Accessibility Center at Michigan State University, to make all parts of our site accessible to users with disabilities. By December, almost all of the HTML code was brought up to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) XHTML 1.0 Transitional, CSS 1.0, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Priority 1 (WCAG P1) (with warnings) standards. Accesskeys were added for navigation, and the site was designed to be enlarged greatly and yet still readable and usable.

TeenSpace Redesign and Expansion

A project went underway to update the TeenSpace section of our site. The changes, developed in consultation with Ann Arbor teens, included a redesigned interface, additional content in its Directory, and new ways for teens to engage with the IPL. The new look appeared over the spring and summer. In December, TeenSpace expanded further with two new sections, the FAEQs (Frequently Asked Embarassing Questions) and the Procrastinator (which also has the TeenSpace Thing of the Week).

50,000 served by Ask-A-Question Service

When the IPL began, online reference was a new concept. Over 50,000 questions later, we had learned a lot! We continued to attract new participants and developed new policies to help serve our users better.

Read more about the Ask-A-Question Service


Interview with Maurita Holland

Maurita Holland, IPL Executive Director Assoc. Prof. Maurita Holland, former IPL Executive Director, describes the many facets of IPL research and development.


NOTE: To watch the interview, you must have either the Adobe Flash Player or QuickTime installed.

IPL Celebrates 10 Years of Innovation

anniversary cakeWhen 35 University of Michigan School of Information students started the Internet Public Library in 1995, they wondered if anyone would notice. 10 years and hundreds of millions of mouse clicks by users later, the IPL celebrated its success with a real and a virtual public open house on Thursday, March 17. A live web feed let those who couldn’t be in Ann Arbor that day see IPL staff and School of Information students eat cake and talk into the camera, describing who they were and what they do for the IPL. There was also a weblog for patrons and past and present IPL staff to talk about how the IPL helped them, and the first version of this very timeline was created for it to add to the celebration.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2004


Blogs Collection


The IPL put up a blogs collection (Original URL: https://www.ipl.org/div/blogs/) to help users navigate the blogosphere, offering general information about blogs, links to blogs on a variety of subjects, and even including our own blog about blogs!

Sun Microsystems Grant

Sun Microsystems provided 9 new servers for the IPL; the IPL began moving from Solaris to Linux.

Research on the Economics of Funding Public Goods

Profs. Yan Chen and Jeff MacKie-Mason at the University of Michigan undertook research evaluating several incentive-compatible public goods mechanisms for IPL fundraising.

Interactive Middle East Newspaper Map

In partnership with the Universal Map Company, the IPL developed an interactive map of the Middle East for use in our Newspapers collection. Users could navigate through the geography of the region to find online newspapers specific to each area.

Biblioteca Publica por Internet

The IPL assisted Mexico’s Technological Institute of Monterrey in creating a Spanish-language virtual library that will provide services to students in Community Learning Centers, as well as the public at large.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2003


Intel Grant

Intel provided laboratory workstations and laptops for the IPL, greatly improving speed.

The IPL Goes Open Source

The IPL made its software available through SourceForge at http://sourceforge.net/projects/hypatia/.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2002


Second Major Redesign

Jun. 12th

IPL's user interface after 2nd major redesign.With the last redesign dating back five years, it was time to freshen up the IPL’s look and feel. In addition to a new interface, the web site gained valuable functionalities, including a comprehensive search feature, breadcrumbs to aid navigation and improved information architecture.

Computerworld Honors Program

The IPL was recognized by this prestigious program for its contributions to the education of library school students, librarians, and users.


AIHEC Virtual Library

The IPL provided interface design and technical assistance to this project of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). The Virtual Library collected resources related to the curriculum of tribal colleges and their communities.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2001



Total Reference Questions Answered as of 2000



Total Reference Questions Answered as of 1999


IPL World Wide

Oct. 5th

The IPL goes World Wide. With mirror servers across the globe, such as in North America, South America and Europe, the IPL can now serve a greater audience world wide.

Interview with David S. Carter

David Carter David Carter was the second executive director of the IPL. Join him in this interview and get a behind the scenes view of a typical day at the IPL.

NOTE: To watch the interview, you must have either the Adobe Flash Player or QuickTime installed.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 1998


Literary Criticism

The Literary Criticism collection was added. The collection contains links to online literary criticism as well as biographical information on authors and other relevant materials. Originally focusing on major American and British authors, the collection was later expanded to include authors from around the world.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 1997



Oct. 12th

Created by Presidential trivia buff Bob Summers, POTUS: Presidents of the United States contains links to biographical and historical information about all U.S. presidents. Summers asked the IPL to host his site to give it more publicity. It quickly became one of the most highly used sections of the IPL!

First Major Redesign

Jan. 12th

IPL's user interface after 1st major redesign.Nearly two years after the IPL’s inauguration, a major web site redesign was completed. The logo was also modified. Thanks go to Robert Mann for the redesign!


Stately Knowledge

The Stately Knowledge collection was added. This popular KidSpace collection provides facts about the U.S. States as well as links to other sites students can use to learn about each state. The collection received another major update in 2004.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 1996


Just for Teens

Dec. 18th

The Teen Division Originals featured a multitude of resources guides and collections. From how to write A+ Research papers to career pathways, teens were sure to find very valuable information and indispensable tips to get through their teenage years! This section was later renamed TeenSpace

A New School

At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the School of Information and Library Studies gave way to a new school: the School of Information.


Total Reference Questions Answered as of 1995


Interview with Michael McClennen

Michael McClennen Michael McClennen was a doctoral student in computer science at the University of Michigan when the call first went out for participation in the IPL. He ultimately created most of the software that now powers the IPL.

NOTE: To watch the interview, you must have either the Adobe Flash Player or QuickTime installed.

Interview with Josie Parker

Josie Parker, Director of the Ann Arbor District Library Josie Parker, Director of the Ann Arbor District Library and member of the early IPL Workshop class, talks about the IPL’s past and future.


NOTE: To watch the interview, you must have either the Adobe Flash Player or QuickTime installed.


QRC & Early Reference Questions

Aug. 3th

The IPL’s online reference service had been handled through a system called HyperNews up to this point, but on this day, QRC became the database management system helping the IPL’s reference administrators process and categorize reference questions and the IPL’s volunteer librarians answer accepted questions.

See examples of some of our early questions


Welcome Kids!

Puppet J.J. the librarian. Besides the original reference center, a youth division was added to educate and familiarize young children to the IPL. Together with J.J. the librarian, the children could play math games, take a tour around the world, do fun science experiments and even learn some new jokes! There was even an Internet newsletter just for kids. This section later became known as KidSpace

The Grand Opening

Mar. 17th

Another early IPL user interface.The library opened 70 days later. It was a sunny Friday. Everyone celebrated as the IPL went live at noon.


The Beginning

Jan. 5

IPL's first user interface.The IPL began in a graduate seminar taught by Dr. Joe Janes 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.

Dr. Joe Janes
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 IPL opened on March 17, 70 days later.



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