Report #2:

Ipl2: Information You Can Trust

SJSU SLIS

Libr 248

Susan M. Lee

Catalog Name: Internet Public Library

Website: Ipl2: http://www.ipl.org/

Background:

The Ipl2: Information you can trust website was listed as one of the best free reference sites by the American Library Association in 2010. A year prior, the Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians Internet Index (LII) merged to create this new digital educational environment, featuring “a searchable, subject-categorized directory of authoritative websites; links to online texts, newspapers, and magazines; special sections for kids and teens; and a collection on ipl2 generated special collections on a variety of topics.“ The site is full of reliable information and aimed at all ages.

The Ipl2’s goals are two-fold educating graduate students in the information field and providing online library services. Its official mission statement is to create a “global information community that provides in-service learning and volunteer opportunities for library and information science students and professionals, offers a collaborative research forum, and supports and enhances library services through the provision of authoritative collections, information assistance, and information instruction for the public.” Their vision statement is to “shape and direct the evolving role of libraries in an increasingly digital world while working to become a virtual learning laboratory for the study of information services and technology.”

Ipl2 is hosted by the iSchool at Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology, with funding from a consortium of colleges and universities with programs in library and information science. Initially the project was funded by Drexel as well as the College of Information at Florida State University, Intel, and Sun Microsystems. The main consortium members remain the iSchool at Drexel and Florida State but they are now joined by 6 partner universities including University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library and Information Science and Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, and ten participating universities including San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science, Pratt Institute – School of Information and Library Science, and St. John’s University – Division of Library and Information Science. Membership information highlights the collaborative effort between interested individuals and organizations. Library and information graduate students are able to participate in a variety of educational workshops and internships.

Ipl2 is a public service organization and learning/teaching environment run largely by volunteers and students with assistance by information science professionals. They provide reference services through Ask an ipl2 Librarian service and maintain ipl2’s collections. The goal of their collection policy is “to maintain a balanced and broadly representative collection of websites for information, reference and research.” They include databases of community-edited online resources, web directories and search engines, magazines (serials), newspapers, literary criticism, blogs, associations on the net, Native American authors, POTUS (information about the American Presidency), and web technologies (web-based applications and tools). Like many libraries, the ipl2 promotes intellectual freedom, having adopted the ALA Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read statement.

Materials in their collections are “selected on the merits of a particular site in relation to the needs of the user community,” which consists of people of all ages, nationalities, occupations, and levels of education. The exceptions are children’s sites that are added to the For Kids section, and teen sites are added to the For Teens section. Principles considered when evaluating material include availability, authority and authorship, content, legality, website design and functionality. They do not include certain materials including sites that violate copyright law, sites that charge fees, commercial websites, and sites with extremist views.

The Ipl2 website was first officially launched in January 2010, creating a comprehensive online facility to support library and information science education, research, and services relating to digital reference and digital information management. There are specific resources to support teachers looking for materials to include in course syllabi, and researchers and other instructors looking for items in collections or issues relating to digital reference collection, collection development and more. The IPL’s KidSpace and TeenSpace sections were re-launched under new names: For Kids and For Teens.

Other important milestones in their history include being awarded the American Library Association’s Carnegie- Whitney Grant in February of 2011 for its resource proposal “Infusing Innovation in rural libraries: An Annotated List of Electronic and Print Resources exploring the digital and mobile divide and investigating solution.” Two months later in April, Ipl2 answered its 100,000 reference question. They also added a new special collection of resources on E-readers, covering topics such as eReader Models, Software Applications, eReaders for Kids, Digital Rights Management and eBook Formats, Reviews and Comparisons, and eBook Libraries.

Body of Report

Layout:

The homepage has a user-friendly interface – it is appealing with just enough color and large tabs, and adds popular elements like buttons to social media like Facebook and Twitter. You can jump to resources by subject where you can search among subjects such as arts and humanities and social sciences, newspapers and magazines from all over the world, special collections that cover topics such as hurricane preparedness, the Iraq War, dozens of pathfinders, and author biographies aimed at children. One of their featured collections is the “A+ Research/Writing Guide,” created to assist high school and college students in writing scholarly research papers.

The pages for Kids and Teens are more colorful but in the similar format and layout as the home page. They add fun topics like sports, arts & crafts and graphic novels. There is the usual search bar in the middle of the page. There is a button for search help. When you click it, you get helpful search tips:

You can select which part of the site you want to search in – all of Ipl2, for kids, for teens, or newspapers and magazines. Overall, the layout is clean and not overwhelming. I found it easy to navigate with not too many distracting graphics, even on the youth pages.

 

Ease of Use:

As stated above, the same search box appears on each page. It is a one-step process to conduct a search. You enter your topic and hit search or enter. You can’t select usual access points as keyword, author or subject – you can only choose to search all of Ipl2, the kids or teen site respectively, or newspapers and magazines by using the dropdown box. You can conduct more advanced searches by using, boosting and Boolean Operators. I couldn’t locate another way to refine a search or limit the results. Since the collection is based upon web resources and websites, it isn’t necessary as it is with physical collections to need to be able to look at dates, language, or media.

I chose to conduct a search on the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. If the user goes to special collections, they can find Abraham Lincoln on the POTUS collection.

You can find facts about Lincoln and information about his Presidency, as well as a list of Internet Biographies from websites such as the official White House page, C-Span and Virginia University. There is a list of historical documents such as copies of his Inaugural Address (first and second), his House Divided speech, several proclamations signed by him and his Gettysburg Address. There are links to trustworthy websites with more information about topics such as his assassination, his childhood home, Mt. Rushmore and his Memorial in Washington D.C.

A search on the Ipl2 site for “Abraham Lincoln” garnered 103 results, including links to the Lincoln Log, the Lincoln Institute and the Library of Congress website.

One of the links goes directly to the Lincoln page on ipl’s own POTUS collection that I described above. Unfortunately while many of the links on the first two pages are relevant, the following pages had many non-relevant hits including the link to the Lincoln Daily News (a city named Lincoln and not connected to Abraham), a link to Smithsonian American Art Museum about sculptures of Abraham Lincoln around the U.S. (not so helpful if you are doing a report on the man himself), and links to other newspapers from towns named Lincoln. There is also a link to the Civil War exhibits at the Smithsonian. While the Smithsonian is a respectable website, I didn’t find the links too relevant in my search.

Scrolling through, there are a handful of more relevant links (including links to PBS) but also more links containing the name Lincoln and not related to Abraham per se, including a link to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Highways. A few of the websites mention Abraham Lincoln in passing but would not be relevant if you are researching the person or his history.

Functionality:

There doesn’t seem to be a way to sort or limit the searches unless you use the advanced search tips but none of them really apply to my search of “Abraham Lincoln.” There are no MARC records or full record info but if you click on the magnifying glass icon next to the links, more info on the website comes up. There are subject headings, a description of what the website contains, usually the name(s) of the creator of the website and publisher (if applicable), the language and the direct link again. It seems the results are ordered by how many times “Abraham Lincoln” appears on the website; the first two hits have Abraham Lincoln in the title page. The first link has the name Lincoln twice. The amount of subject headings doesn’t seem to affect the order too much; for the first two search results, the subjects are “Presidents by Name” and “Lincoln, Abraham.” But the 3rd result has several subject headings. If you click on the highlighted subject, you get a new list of results under that subject, but again not all results listed were relevant.

 

There doesn’t seem to consistency in the use of subject headings. A few of the results that are not as relevant have subject tags of “abraham lincoln” or “lincoln,” not “Lincoln, Abraham” as used on the first page. Some of the non-relevant results don’t have any subject tags.

A search on the For Kids” website only brought up 5 results in an “Abraham Lincoln” search, only three of which were relevant. The For Teens website only brought up one result, a PBS companion page to a documentary on Lincoln that they produced and aired twelve years ago. A search in the newspapers and magazines section brought up no results. I altered my search to just “Lincoln” or “Abraham,” “U.S. Presidents” or “American President” and the results were not much more helpful.

Terminology:

                An ordinary library user can understand the terms used in the searches. There is no library jargon or terminology unless you click search help. You’ll find Boolean Operators, Wildcard Characters, syntax, and offers other advanced features. There isn’t a refined search. The advanced search option isn’t the normal one you see. It only offers tips.

 

Feedback/Help:

The search help more-or-less offers tips on how you can manually conduct a more refined search. The Boolean Operators, Term Boosting, and Proximity Search were most helpful but I found they did not apply to my search of “Abraham Lincoln.” There is the Ask-a-librarian online reference service where you can ask questions. The service is available 24 hours a day, for 7 days a week except on certain holidays. You submit your question by filling out an online form. A staff member or library volunteer will look at the form, and send you an email, explaining the service, what they can offer and answer your question. If they cannot answer your question, they will explain why and offer suggestions to aid you in your search. Usually you will receive a reply within a week. You can ask follow-up questions by sending another e-mail in reply.

While the service is helpful, I was surprised to see it was a form and not a live chat service like my local public library offers. I understand why it can take a week to receive a reply (they receive hundreds of questions each week), that seems like a long time especially when people expect instant service these days. But they do offer a disclaimed that they are not a real-time service and not the best source if you need help right away. They do refer you to your local library or to other sections of the Ipl2 website.

 

Conclusion:

I found the catalog easily useable. I would think the general public would find it just as easily useable. While there were several relevant hits retrieved, I did not find the catalog that helpful. Perhaps since the collection was of online resources, it was too limiting. I did appreciate that they included only authoritative websites and had youth-oriented sections. I also like that they have actual information science professionals, students, and volunteers working on the website. The internships and workshops that Ipl2 offers sound very educational. I think those would be most useful to (aspiring) library workers. The online reference service can be useful but restrictive. It is great that they offer it though.

I would find the website more valuable if the search results were more refined or there was a way to limit results or suggest websites. I might suggest the website to kids so they could find some authoritative websites though but I would also suggest other resources to fill in any gaps.

Citation:

http://www.ala.org/rusa/sites/ala.org.rusa/files/content/sections/mars/marspubs/marsbestfreewebsites/marsbestfree2010.pdf

http://www.ipl.org/div/about/

http://www.ipl.org/div/about/IPLconsortium/ipl2MembershipInformation.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcd6NhJRt5k

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