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IPL Internet Public Library http://www.ipl.org Prepared by Catherine Van Buren Drexel University Student Chapter American Library Association October 21, 2008 Internet Public Library Started in 1995 at University of Michigan Moved to Drexel in 2006 Now hosted on Drexel servers

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ipl internet public library

IPLInternet Public Library


Prepared by Catherine Van Buren

Drexel University Student Chapter

American Library Association

October 21, 2008

internet public library
Internet Public Library
  • Started in 1995 at University of Michigan
  • Moved to Drexel in 2006
  • Now hosted on Drexel servers
  • Some staff are based at Drexel
  • Offers links, original content, and an email reference service
internet public library4
Internet Public Library

Subject Collections provide links and quick descriptions in various categories

internet public library5
Internet Public Library

Ready Reference provides links to reference resources (dictionaries, grammar, etc.)

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Internet Public Library

Reading Room provides links to free books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

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Internet Public Library

Special Collections are original resources developed or hosted by the IPL

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Internet Public Library

Exhibits are multimedia collections, e.g. photographs and music

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Internet Public Library

FAQ is Frequently Asked Questions, e.g. salary of the president, “publish or perish”, plots in literature

internet public library13
Internet Public Library

Pathfinders are like subject guides; each has an introduction to the subject, print sources, and internet sources, with a short description of each source

internet public library14
Internet Public Library

Student Involvement

  • I view the IPL as a sort of “teaching hospital” for library and information science students. It calls itself a laboratory.
  • Students work on reference service and pathfinders.
  • Internship and practicum opportunities.
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Internet Public Library

Ask an IPL Librarian

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Internet Public Library
  • Volunteers (students, former students, MLIS, experience in reference) answer the questions
  • There is an extensive “training manual” - it has the technical details, as well as content and format standards
  • You sign up and get your logon information after checking out the training manual
  • Then the first step is the practice question, which is just like a real question, but the answer goes to IPL staff instead of a patron
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Internet Public Library

Real Questions

  • Reviewed by IPL reference administration - fake email addresses and unanswerable questions identified
  • Split up into reference and factual, categorized, youth questions labeled
  • Sometimes admin will give advice on what the user might really want or where to look for resources
  • Patron information is included – location and age of the patron can help you with the answer, just like face-to-face reference
  • Patrons can specify when they need the answer, they are told they will get an answer in one week if their question is accepted
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Internet Public Library

Answering Questions

  • You “claim” a question when you want to answer it, thus two or more people are not working on the same thing
  • You have 24 hours to respond once you claim a question
  • You can “unclaim” a question if you decide you can’t answer it
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Internet Public Library

Answering Questions

  • You can give the actual answer if it’s a factual question, but you’re mostly identifying resources – generally ones that are free, online, and authoritative
  • Can use Wikipedia, etc., but you must include a disclaimer, which the IPL provides
  • Three resources minimum
  • Explain why they are authoritative and how you found them, cite them correctly
  • You have the option to include your name in the response to the patron
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Internet Public Library

Answering Questions

  • You can post and ask for help from other volunteers
  • You can ask patrons for clarification (reference interview), but the IPL warns against this because patrons often don’t respond
  • Sometimes you get feedback from users after answering their questions
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Internet Public Library

Answering Questions

  • For INFO 511, we had to answer seven questions and then write up a self-evaluation for each
  • One thing I forgot to do was keep track of sites I didn’t use in my responses, which my professor wanted me to include
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Internet Public Library

What I liked

  • Chance to answer real reference questions
  • Some of the pressure (time crunch)
  • Much less pressure than if dealing with people at a face-to-face reference desk
  • Forced to reflect for final project
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Internet Public Library

What I didn’t like

  • “Reference interview” not really feasible
  • Can be cumbersome to format questions – hard and/or tedious to explain to patrons how you found the resources
  • Sometimes I worried no one would bother to read what I wrote
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Internet Public Library

Advice for Answering IPL Questions

  • Start early and check the questions often, then you can pick questions that interest you or at least questions that you know where to find authoritative, free resources for (What is a “reference interview”?)
  • Use the IPL for resources! If you’re familiar with the IPL’s own resources, you can pick questions that you know will be easy to answer.
internet public library ask an ipl librarian reference questions answered
Internet Public Library“Ask an IPL Librarian”Reference Questions Answered
  • 1995 – 1,116
  • 1996 – 4,007
  • 1997 – 8, 281
  • 1998 – 13,850
  • 1999 – 20,850
  • 2000 – 27,910
  • 2001 – 35,060
  • 2002 – 40,462
  • 2003 – 46,721
  • 2004 – 52,383
  • 2005 – 57,521
  • 2006 – 62,186
  • 2007 – 71,723
  • 2008 – 77,686 (July 2)