IPL 10th – Timeline

This was the timeline as it appeared for the 2005 Anniversary celebration,
except nothing appeared above these lines or below the Valid XHTML link below.

IPL 10th Anniversary: Celebrating a Decade of World-Wide Information Access
View the Thank You Card Explore the Timeline See the Blog



The Beginning

Jan. 5

IPL's first user interface.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. A group of 35 students, led by Prof. Joseph Janes, began the work on the IPL!

The Grand Opening

Mar. 17th

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


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

QRC & Early Reference Questions

Aug. 3th

The IPL’s Ask-A-Question 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

Interview with Michael McClennen

Michael McClennen Michael McClennen was a doctoral student in computer science 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 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 QuickTime installed.

Total Reference Questions Answered



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

The School of Information and Library Studies gave way to a new school: the School of Information.

Total Reference Questions Answered



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!



Oct. 12th

Created by Presidential trivia buff Bob Summers, POTUS: Presidents of the United States contains links to biographical and historical information about all 43 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!

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



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.

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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 QuickTime installed.

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.

Total Reference Questions Answered



Total Reference Questions Answered



Total Reference Questions Answered



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.

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Intel Grant

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

The IPL Goes Open Source

The IPL makes its software available through SourceForge at http://cvs.sourceforge.net/viewcvs.py/hypatia/.

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Sun Microsystems Grant

Sun Microsystems provides 9 new servers for the IPL; the IPL begins moving from Solaris to Linux.

Research on the Economics of Funding Public Goods

Profs. Yan Chen and Jeff MacKie-Mason undertake 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 can navigate through the geography of the region to find online newspapers specific to each area.

Biblioteca Publica por Internet

The IPL has assisted Mexico’s Tecnological 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



Current Projects:

Book Recommender

This work was inspired by a visit from SI Alumna Nancy Pearl. Nancy, a well-known librarian, a frequent commentator on National Public Radio and author of books about books, is also the model for the popular librarian action figure.


The IPL is working with Mike Elledge, a Usability Consultant at the University of Michigan, to make all parts of our site accessible to users with disabilities.

Blogs Collection

The new IPL blogs collection helps users navigate the blogosphere, offering general information about blogs, links to blogs on a variety of subjects, and even includes our own blog about blogs!

Science Reference and Resources

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 are investigating how we can improve our resources and reference service in this area. The group is examining 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.

TeenSpace Redesign and Expansion

A project is underway to update the TeenSpace section of our site. The changes, developed in consultation with Ann Arbor teens, will include a redesigned interface, additional content, and new ways for teens to engage with the IPL.

Congressional Research Service Report Collection

Reports created at the request of Congress members are being collected from various sources so that they can be preserved and made available to the general public.

Ask-A-Question Service

When the IPL began, online reference was a new concept. Over 50,000 questions later, we’ve learned a lot! We continue to attract new participants and develop new policies to help us serve our users.

Read more about the Ask-A-Question Service

Interview with Maurita Holland, Executive Director of the IPL

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

If you have trouble with the video, try this link

NOTE: To watch the interview, you must have 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 this very timeline was spawned to add to the celebration.

  • Click HERE to see photos from the party.
  • Click HERE to read an announcement from the School of Information advertising the celebration. (Page does not work properly in Mac-IE 5.1!)
  • Click HERE to read the issue of SI@umich.edu that covered the IPL’s 10th anniversary.
    • (Issue 26, Spring 2005, of SI@umich.edu, the University of Michigan School of Information’s triannual alumni newsletter.)

Total Reference Questions Answered

Internet Public Library
University of MichiganSchool of Information

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